Friday, March 07, 2014 9:37 PM
Published on: Thursday, October 03, 2013
By Brian J. Karem
There is about a month left before the citizens of Rockville go to the polls to elect their next mayor and the choices between the two candidates can be clearly seen in how each is answering a very simple question regarding the problems inside the city.
Rockville has dealt with a variety of personnel issues during the last two years that have landed the city in court on the wrong end of some lawsuits.
The Sentinel broke many of these stories and prompted a $190,000 outside investigation by Saul Ewing LLP into the problems. At least two middle managers fled the city during this process and at least one of those managers under scrutiny remains on the job. In the interim the city has hired a new city manager and a new H.R. director.
The report on the problems provided to the city hasn’t been seen by any elected official and the city has refused to release the whole report, or any redacted version which would remove names of employees interviewed during the report.
We support the city in its efforts to protect those who came forward to testify, but believe the city is being disingenuous when says it must protect its workers and therefore cannot release the results of the Saul Ewing report.
If the city had been more serious about protecting its employees the report would not have been necessary, and as stated by several lawyers, former councilmen and at least one former mayor, it should be possible to redact the names of the employees in the report and at the same time divulge at least a partial report.
The lack of transparency on this issue cannot be defended by saying the city is dealing with a personnel matter. It looks as if the city is hiding results which would be detrimental to some of its managers, including the city attorney who decided not to release the report.
Serious questions also remain as to who was contacted by the outside investigator. There is serious doubt as to whether or not any former employees were interviewed, and there is a growing concern about the findings of the outside investigation.
There are also serious questions about the lack of decorum and professionalism displayed by some members of the city staff – particularly in dealing with residents and members of the media.
How the next mayor deals with these very serious issues, some believe, will be a cornerstone in deciding who should be elected to the office in November.
We at The Sentinel are in agreement with those sentiments. The time has come for the city to quit bleeding money because of protracted lawsuits or the settlement of those lawsuits. The city needs to deal honestly and openly with its residents. It has a track record of ignoring or antagonizing residents and its own employees in a manner unseen since the days of Lords and serfs.
To say the attitude in Rockville city government is Medieval is an affront to the Middle Ages.
So, without taking sides in the Rockville race – as it is The Sentinel’s policy to offer no endorsement – we will instead merely offer the question and answer from the two candidates and let the good people of Rockville decide how best they would like to be represented.
Our reporter asked, “If elected would you support the new mayor and council looking at the Saul Ewing report?”
Mark Pierzchala responded; “No. We are not the heads of these people. It is the city manager. . . The city code is clear that it is the city manager who is in charge of all of this, not the mayor and council. We are not in the personnel stream and have no right according to Maryland law to see it. I also don’t think I need to see it.”
Bridget Newton responded; “Yes, if names are redacted. We have given it over a year and we are not in a better place. Having the mayor and council get the information would enable us to ask questions and get the answers we need to fix this.”
The split between the two candidates on this particular issue should be an important factor in deciding between the two for mayor.
Posted By: Resident On: 10/11/2013
Who does the City Manager and the City Attorney report to? Everyone has a boss. Who is their boss? I assume their boss is the Mayor and Council. As it is obvious there are many unhappy employees in City Hall, why doesn't the Mayor and Council demand answers from the City Manager and City Attorney??? Definitely need a major who has the guts to protect the employees and restore City Hall to what it once was.