June 13, 2013
CITY MANAGER ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE

FORETHOUGHT
INTENT: To urge thoughtful action.

I want the City Manager search to be part of the calculus that the voters use to pick a new City Council.

Campaigns like these will always have unexpected turns of events. The City Manager's announcement that he was leaving was a surprise. I was certain that he would stay until the November elections. At which time, his fate would be determined by the make up of the new Council.

In this presentation, I am making a case for patience in the search for a new City Manager. I believe the current Council is comfortable with the status quo, and would likely hire someone who was comfortable with it too.

State Law requires a 30 day severance pay if the City Manager is terminated. If the Council should hire a person that doesn't meet the expectations of a new City Council, the City would be out 14K in termination pay, plus the expenses associated with the search ~25K.

His departure dovetails with the change up that I planned for mid August. Then I will be using the selection of a new City Manager as a basis for my presentations. I will be showing the possibilities of how a new City Manager can turn this City around.

 

 

Letter to the Council


Dear Council Members,

I propose that when the City Manager leaves, that an interim City Manager be hired until January 2, 2014. The hiring of an interim City Manager will save the City approximately $14,000 in termination fees (RCW 35A.13.130) that would otherwise be paid to a permanent City Manager who may not represent the ideas and ideals of the new City Council. With an interim City Manager, the day-to-day affairs of the city can be managed while the political process plays out. Additionally, the City Manager should be tasked with implementing the BMC proactively during this transition.

Recently, the City Manager was heard to say, the City would need new revenue to beef up code enforcement to make the City proactive. I propose the following alternative:

  • City Council direct the City Attorney to notify the Washington State Legislature in writing that Burien will not be pursuing annexation of White Center.
  • City Council direct the City Manager to not devote any further staff time to Wards until after the election in November.
  • That all employees who quit be given an exit interview. Copies of these interviews shall be forwarded to all members of the Council. I believe, that the cost associated with staff turnover, is harming our city.

For every 40 hours of staff time spent on wards and annexation, the city could have cleaned up one bank repo or slumlord dwelling. The city would have realized $35,000 in new revenue from this cleanup and the community's net worth would have increased in excess of $20 million. Total cleanup of Burien would take 2000 – 4000 man hours. Whatever merits annexation and wards had, has passed, and the time to direct the City Manager to focus on making Burien the first priority, has now arrived.

The choice before us is the continuation of the $200 million dollar problem or the $1 billion dollar solution. Again, I choose solution. What is your choice?

Dick West

 

RCW 35A.13.130

City manager — Removal — Resolution and notice.

The city manager shall be appointed for an indefinite term and may be removed by a majority vote of the council. At least thirty days before the effective date of his or her removal, the city manager must be furnished with a formal statement in the form of a resolution passed by a majority vote of the city council stating the council's intention to remove him or her and the reasons therefor. Upon passage of the resolution stating the council's intention to remove the manager, the council by a similar vote may suspend him or her from duty, but his or her pay shall continue until his or her removal becomes effective.


[2009 c 549 § 3028; 1967 ex.s. c 119 § 35A.13.130.]

 

 

RECONNAISSANCE
June 13, 2013

I will be referring to State Law on termination fees of a City Manager.

The search fees I don't want to be duplicated are based on the current City Manager search. The fee is about 25K. Alternatively, other local Cities who have had a recent City Manager could assist you in this information. Generally, the Council Packet, the Council Video, or the local news outlet will be able to give you that number.
Using State law to urge caution creates a conversation about the danger of haste.

I will also be referring to giving exit interviews to departing staff. This is to find out what is happening in the City and ways stop the cost associated with staff turnover. This appears to be a problem based on the number of times I heard Council Members bring up the subject with the City Manager.
Articulating a plan to reduce staff turnover names the problem.

I am also wanting to stop projects that are draining resources from the City. These include Wards and Annexation. Another one that I didn't use was the cost of the Red Light camera that was installed at a major intersection. The cost of the one in Burien was 600K per year. There were no decreases in accidents or injuries with its use.

The fines the city collected fell short of the 600K annual cost of the system. The City still had to pay staff time to research the license plate numbers and issue tickets.

Generally, once a year the Police Department gives a presentation on public safety issues. Public Comment comes before these presentations. Proactively asking about reductions in accidents with these lights is a way to bring this information to the attention of the public.

Public Disclosure Requests are unlikely to be useful in gathering this information. This kind of information involves tallies; cumulative information is not permitted by Public Disclosure Request rules.
Asking that wasteful spending be stopped, puts the ball in the Council's court.

 

 

AFTERTHOUGHT

Cities are corporations, and are not immune to the follies that befall poorly run businesses. Cities that are declining have structural management issues going on. These issues can always be traced to the very top; the Council. They are the ones who hire the City Manager to run the City.

Not all City Managers are created equal:

  • Some will be more attuned to what is going on around them, and will be more proactive. Their tenure will be one of engagement and accomplishment.
  • Others will be reactive and their accomplishments will be minimal.

The City Managers resignation is not a guarantee of better things to come. It is merely an opportunity. It is still going to require a Council up to the challenge of engagement and dialogue with the community. To do any less, will deter top tier candidates from applying.

People tend to hire others who share common management styles. Councils that are reactive will not be comfortable hiring a proactive person. Proactive Managers require a greater time commitment on the part of the Council. People of this caliber do not suffer fools gladly. They are not here just for the paycheck, they are doers.

The vetting process that goes with this type of management change is time consuming. Nothing can be done to shorten it that won't compromise the City. High quality candidates will want to know who they will be working with, thus they are going wait until the dust settles from the election before tossing their hat into the ring for consideration.

Making a case for patience is a good thing.