Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Some Clarification

I was informed that the most significant decreases in the reserve occurred under City Manager Mike Mahaney not Burgess Hanson.  And, the things that have further decreased the reserve are that the BSO Fire and Police have over a 3 million dollar increase this year and the fire pension recalculation (because people are living longer now the pensions will pay out longer and the pension funding had to be readjusted to reflect that) cost the city about 1.5 million.  None of which could have been predicted but had to be funded.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Some questions need to be answered.

Before moving on to correct the current situation questions need to be answered.
What is Staff presenting to the Commission as alternatives to the Broward County Sheriff's cost increases?  I would add that when things are done on an "end justifies the means" basis, it is often the result that serious public policy mistakes are made.  City Charter 7.09 is clear that there should have been a Referendum if the Sheriff fire section was to use the City owned fire stations.  Even without Section 7.09, on an issue of that importance, the public should be given the vote.  But, especially with former Mayor Noland's strong desire to do everything for the fire department and her fire department husband, Howard, the public was ignored as the right of the public to determine those crucial issues affecting the public's lives was ignored.  The Commission did not allow a vote, and for that the members of that Commission are justifiably to be blamed.  I believe the public did not want the fire department to go to the Sheriff, and I believe that that that Commission knew it, but felt that the public's wishes should be ignored. 
The problem is that now, when there are issues concerning the fire department being with the Sheriff, there is still a large opinion that it never should have been done in the first place.  I have not reviewed the Contract, but in light of the fact that the Commission and Staff knew that the legitimacy of the manner in which the fire department went to the Sheriff, that the contract is structured to make it difficult for the City to take the fire department back, if that is the wish of the Commission.

What structural changes are being made to the personnel employment chart for the City, especially at the upper Staff levels?  This is vital because a top-heavy Staff symbolically and practically reflects that there is bloated government that is not serious about government efficiency and treating the taxpayer funds with fiscal responsibility.

The City Manager is the Chief Administrator for the City.  Did Staff provide written memoranda to the Commission and to the City accurately stating what would cause the fund balance decline and any increases related to the contract related with the Broward Sheriff's Office?  While the decision to have a budget that would cause a fund balance decline and to contract with the Broward Sheriff's Department are policy decisions for the Commission, the City Manager should (although often they do not) state in writing the consequences of the actions a Commission is determining."

A serious answer needs to be given to the question: "How did what happen occur?"  Burgess was the City Manager during the move of the fire department and was acting City Manager or City Manager during a significant portion of a drop in the reserves.   An analysis is needed as to what information Staff gave the Commission and was available to the citizens.  This does raise the issue of Burgess' weakness in finances.  If the answers are what I suspect they may be, Burgess needs to significantly change his behavior so that these things or types of things never happen again.  Burgess' responsibility for this serious situation should not be minimized because if it is minimized it will not be corrected.  Burgess is paid a lot of money (someone should really even at this date do a valuation as to his compensation package on both an annual basis and also the value of his "golden parachute" when he is no longer City Manager.  This is a one sided contract in Burgess' favor and not in favor of the citizens of Deerfield Beach), and his performance on these two significant matters seems to have been very inadequate.   

As concerns staff, I would look to the issue of top-heavy staffing and the pay levels of those staff.  I would also be careful not to place too much weight on what other municipalities are paying since the overpay problem is endemic of government.  I go back to my letter to the Commission of September 2010 concerning Burgess' pay jump when he went in-house to being a City Manager.  I wonder who on Staff would do a hard analysis of the top heavy nature of upper Administrative level personnel and the overpayment salaries/compensation packages.

The potential errors by Burgess in the reduction of the fund balance and an accurate assessment of information provided the Commission concerning the fire department going to the Sheriff's Department are very, very significant errors.  It was and is his job to provide accurate information.  Whether the then constituted Commission would have voted differently is difficult to say -- I believe that no matter what, Peggy Noland would have voted in favor of the fire department going to the Sheriff's Department because it benefitted her husband.


The fund balance should never have been allowed to dip so low and should be beefed up ASAP.  There should be more revenue now that property values are inching up if that is not enough a raise in the millage rate might be the way to go, perhaps with a provision that it will only be until we get a fatter fund balance, a raise will anger some but may be the only  way to go. 

I think Hugh Dunkley our Director of Finance is very aware of what needs to be done and the commission should listen to him more and worry about reelection less.  There are lots of things the city needs that cost money but should be put on the back burner until the balance is large enough so we have enough for hurricane damage etc.

It is hard to justify taxpayers paying more if the city pay scale is out of whack, I don’t know if it is, but needs to be addressed every year, when I was president of our teacher’s union we adjusted the pay scale every year, many years the teachers at the top of the guide got very little increase, if anything.

 I also don’t know if we are top heavy in top administration, but a serious look at that should be done.  Perhaps we should look at saving money by outsourcing some departments, landscaping for example, would it be cheaper?  We should take a serious look at that department and others.  Most likely it would save money as we would save pension and medical costs and perhaps get better service as the company would know they would be let go if they didn’t perform up to snuff.  We are not an employment agency for city residents, but I suppose the city could make a provision that our workers would be hired by the outside agency. 

I believe that taking the fire department back would be next to impossible, but if an actuary could prove that it would save money it should be looked at.  I don’t think so but who knows.  I have many questions about that.  What would happen to the extra fire station out west? Would the city have to be stuck with the same pension provisions?  As a teacher I did other jobs for the district for which I was paid a stipend, and coaches etc. make extra money, but NONE of that extra money went toward our pension basis, and I do not believe overtime etc. should be included. 

The City Attorney's opinion was that we didn’t need a referendum, but I would have liked to see one, I am not sure the residents would have voted no, as they did in the past, as this change was presented with the rosy outlook of saving millions and millions each year, how is that working out?  But the voters should be heard on items such as these.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Witch Hunt!

I have heard rumor after rumor that Mayor Jean Robb and her vocal cohorts are “going after” City Manager Burgess Hanson. I am convinced it is true.  I also hear that Human Resources Director Mike Milanowski, Asst. City Manager Keven Klopp, and others are on the hit list. Mostly for no other reason than they said no, or refused to knuckle under to someone who certainly wanted something unreasonable; it unquestionably is not because of job performance.

When Burgess Hanson was voted in as City Manager I had serious reservations.  My main concern was that he was trained by former City Manager Larry Deetjen who I found to be nasty, selfish, overdevelopment friendly, and resident unfriendly.  I saw Larry running the city commission single handedly, making policy, (I suspect with back room deals and meetings) not just carrying it out, and if anyone crossed him, they likely suffered grave consequences accompanied by a verbal whiplashing.  This was not a legacy I was eager to see continued by his “disciple”.  I was very wary of how Burgess might act.  Unlike Larry, Burgess had always been polite and helpful whenever I asked him something, but still, he WAS trained by Larry.

It took me a while to become a Burgess fan.  I attend almost all city meetings.  I watched for signs of Larry seeping out of Burgess’ pores, but I saw no sign of the Larry nastiness, no sign of being a control freak, no sign of disrespect for residents especially women or those of other ethnicity or race from himself. 
I did see the city being well run, I saw a commitment to fiscal responsibility, I saw a city manager who is responsive to the commissioners, residents and city workers, and someone who puts in very long, long hours.  I understand he is demanding.  Nothing wrong with that; demanding that a city worker do their job, and do it well is something I admire.    Toward that end, Burgess, knowing that the city has been weak in the area of human resources, hired Mike Milanowski, who has a law degree and a wealth of experience.  Burgess is following what I believe is a solid game plan for the city.  Hire the best people you can, pay them what they are worth and let them do their jobs. 

Our top managers and supervisors, in the private sector, would be earning far more than our people for a corporation the size of Deerfield Beach.  Being penny wise and pound foolish is not the way to save money.  Having well paid managers who make sure their supervisors are well trained will improve morale and productivity, saving far more than their salaries in the long run.  We have a ways to go before all supervisors know that supervision by intimidation is not the way to manage, but Burgess and Mike are making sure that training is taking place. 
Hiring a city manager from an outside pool of candidates subjects the city to the “Dance of the Lemons” with available candidates being ones who were fired from other cities.  Witness our last two managers if you doubt.  We are fortunate to have Burgess who comes from within our city and is personally involved with Deerfield Beach.

I am still watching for signs of Larryism, but the only signs of it I see are from our Mayor and her allies, not our City Manager.