Saturday, April 19, 2014 3:12 AM
Published on: Thursday, March 28, 2013
By Brian J. Karem
Mike Mills never wanted to go back to Rockville, but unfortunately we have to spend a little more time in this Alice in Wonderland, through-the-looking-glass city of hope and despair.
Last year The Montgomery County Sentinel began a series of stories based on several complaints lodged by city workers against some of the management staff in Rockville.
Our stories spawned an investigation from the city in which the county council authorized nearly $200,000 to investigate the claims of malfeasance, misfeasance, discrimination and racism.
Workers lodged complaints against the former city manager, the city attorney and other managers.
Two of these managers left the city while the investigation dragged on; its results postponed by several months.
Meanwhile, the city which had been without a city manager for an even longer period of time finally found a suitable candidate and hired Barbara Matthews formerly from Takoma Park.
Shortly thereafter, the company hired to investigate the myriad complaints from city staffers came forward with the results of the investigation and the city attorney promptly sealed those results out of fear of safety for the employees who complained.
The hypocrisy of this move would be laughable if it were not so sad. The city attorney’s office was one of the offices under investigation – at least if the independent company hired to conduct the investigation listened to all the complaints we reported.
In addition, though the city balked at the idea, it is easy to redact names and amend the report so a summary or a partial report which at least addresses the complaints is made public. It also rings hollow to say the city now wants to protect the workers when it obviously failed to do so for years prior to those complaints being aired by The Sentinel.
The City Attorney is notorious for sealing everything, and even tried to keep us from a recent email we obtained regarding another nefarious move by the city regarding a vote on a volunteer position.
Further complicating things is the city attorney’s move to keep the results of the investigation from the city council.
In an era of transparency in government, the city government isn’t even transparent with itself! The council and mayor don’t have the report for which they authorized the payment! They are currently arguing among themselves on several issues and cannot even present a united front to tell the city staff to provide them with this information. The inmates are running the asylum.
We at The Sentinel, members of the city council, and others in the media have asked for and filed requests for the results of the investigation. We all got exactly zip.
In the beginning I was more than happy to give the current city manager the benefit of the doubt in so much as she inherited a huge mess and had to deal with it squarely. She promised to be straight with us. However our reporters still have difficulty getting statements or information from the city manager’s office and the city attorney.
Why until recently was there still no mechanism in place to find an H.R. Director? Indeed, why isn’t there an H.R. Director? The city manager said some of the recommendations brought forward by the independent investigation could not be implemented until a new H.R. Director was in place. So could we find one, please?
As far as we can tell from our investigation and the continuing complaints we hear from the city, staffers remain unconvinced the city will change. We are starting to believe they may be right.
The City is dragging its heels and time is running out for the new city manager to prove she is an effective administrator.
The time is running out for the council and maybe in the next election someone with the guts to keep the city staff managers in line will step forward and run for office.Finally, we believe the time has run out on the city attorney. She needs to leave. The city attorney has failed to prove that office supports transparency in government on many occasions.
Rockville deserves better, or there are many who will fear going back to Rockville and wasting another year.
Posted By: Sean S On: 4/30/2013
Title: Time has run out
The City is dragging its heels and time is running out for the new city manager to prove she is an effective administrator"
Effective management would have been starting an immediate search for a new HR director. Ms. Matthews is clearly not well suited for the cities top position. Fire her immediately!
Clearly these is more to the findings in the Saul Ewing report the city wants to hide.
Posted By: Alice in Wonderland On: 3/29/2013
Why isn't this resolved by now? Was it that scathing? I thought it was only implementing new programs in HR.