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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Agenda Item on City Manager Precludes Doing Anything More than an Evaluation: Brown Act Requires Public Disclosure of Votes Taken in Closed Session

It's unfortunate that as the press runs stories about the Council going into closed session next Tuesday to evaluate the City Manager (which is required in his contract), the press fails to remind readers the basics of the Brown Act which requires that items to be taken action on need to be specifically stated and that pursuant to the Brown Act any vote taken in closed session must be announced by the City Attorney when the Council returns to open session.

Why are employee evaluations allowed to be conducted in closed session? The court has stated:
[T]he underlying purposes of the 'personnel exception' are to protect the
employee from public embarrassment and to permit free and candid
discussions of personnel matters by a local governmental body."
If the Council agenda sent to the public states: "Pursuant to Section 54957 of the California Government Code regarding Public Employee Evaluation: City Manager" then all the City Council can do is an evaluation. To go beyond an evaluation the agenda item would have to state: "Public employee discipline/dismissal/release."

Evaluation of City Manager Should Be Done Properly

The local press is running articles on the upcoming evaluation of the City Manager, Pat West and the revelation that the President of the Long Beach Police Officers Association thinks the City Manager should be fired and that the Long Beach Firefighters Association thinks he shouldn't be fired.

Residents, employees and their representatives are certainly entitled to their opinions. But under the City Charter of Long Beach, the decision to hire and fire the City Manager is vested solely in the City Council.

It is also the responsibility of the City Council to evaluate the City Manager on a regular basis so both he and the council can measure if the City Manager is doing the job he was hired to do. The International City Management Association (ICMA) has identified the three major roles of a City Manager as managerial (supervising City activities and employees), policy making (making policy decisions and policy recommendations to City Council) and political (advocating and winning support for various policies, coalition building, and public relations—but not supporting candidates or parties).

The Long Beach City Charter outlines the powers of the City Manager and gives him wide discretion on how he focuses his efforts. So unless the City Council has established specific goals and objectives it is impossible to measure performance objectively.

I spent several years teaching students at CSULB Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration on how to become city managers -- so I am more than familiar with the process by which city managers should be evaluated as recommended by the ICMA:

  • The evaluation process will be enhanced if both the entire Council and the Manager are involved from the start in developing the criteria and agreeing on them.
  • It is essential that the City Council clearly define goals and objectives for the City Manager.
  • The City Council, the City Manager and department heads should provide evaluations.
  • Before the Council makes a final decision about any action as a result of the evaluation, or make any final statement as a Council about the Manager’s performance, it is important to discuss the results of the evaluation with the Manager first.
  • A Council that is serious about evaluation should understand that its performance often affects the Manager’s performance.
  • The Council should ask the Manager about how the Council’s performance has enhanced or hindered the Manager's performance.
There are some serious problems with the City Council going forward on an evaluation of the City Manager: while we have evaluated City Manager West before, we have not clearly defined goals and objectives we want him to accomplish, nor have we ever asked for feedback from his department heads, nor have we asked him about how our performance has enhanced or hindered his performance.

The Council can fix the evaluation process by setting goals and objectives, getting feedback from department heads and analyzing whether or not it is the council's responsibility if the City Manager has failed or succeeded.

Friday, February 26, 2010

No. I won't discuss the City Manager's evaluation in the press.

A reporter from the Press Telegram left me a voice mail yesterday asking me to comment on a rumor that several councilmembers were planning on voting to fire City Manager Pat West next week when we review his annual evaluation.

I didn't return the call because I don't think it is appropriate for employers (the City Council) to discuss a personnel matter with the press. Since I have not read the evaluations from other Councilmembers, I have no idea what they feel about extending the City Manager's contract. I'll find out in closed session and if the Council takes any action, it will be announced to the public by the City Attorney.

LBPD Arrest Suspect in Slaying -- Victim Dumped in 5th District

The Long Beach Police Department have arrested a 17 year suspect in the slaying of a male whose body was found near Vuelta Grande and Los Arcos.

It has not been disclosed how the body of the victim (not from Long Beach) wound up in East Long Beach.

The fast arrest is one more reminder of why it was important to restore funding for detectives.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cell Phone Tower at Studebaker and Wardlow

A meeting of neighbors adjacent to the church site at Studebaker and Wardlow where a cell phone tower was proposed to be cited, was well attended for a Saturday morning -- @ 45 people.

Residents are concerned about the potential emissions from cell phone towers and the fact that they are concerned that it might lower property values because there are many people who do not want to live near these towers. Several families spoke about their children already having health problems and they did not want to bring in something that there is debate about whether or not it is safe. A firefighter spoke on how he had measured the emissions on these types of towers and that there were several schools within 1500 feet (which is the recommended distance from a cell tower and a school).

The representative of the company which installs the towers was very informative but the consensus of those in attendance was that the neighborhood doesn't want it adjacent to their homes.

The cell tower is being proposed to expand coverage for T-Mobile. Other carriers could pay to attach their equipment. The church would be paid @$1,000 a month for the cell tower to use space on its property.

Several cities are placing a moratorium on placing cell towers because of the growing concerns of residents about the potential impact.

Save Station 18

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