Sunday, March 09, 2014 3:40 AM
Published on: Thursday, December 13, 2012
By Brian J. Karem
It’s a shame the people of Rockville have to suffer through an inept and at times cruel city management system that seems to place so little value on the people who make the city a truly special place to live and work.
We began a series of investigative stories this year after a former City Clerk and other former employees came forward to complain of racism and discrimination among some of the city supervisory staff.
The city settled with the former city clerk for about $40,000. Then, apparently based on our work, the city hired an outside firm to get to the bottom of the problem.
It agreed to pay $90,000 for this investigation, and ultimately paid $190,000 to interview 44 people about the problems in the city.
Saul Ewing LLP, the company hired to conduct the outside investigation, twice delayed turning over the results.
Meanwhile, two of the supervisors under scrutiny left the city. The city attorney, criticized by some for not helping out the employees who complained, decided once the city had the report to keep it under wraps, saying the investigation wasn’t a matter of public record because the city had to protect the 44 people interviewed by Saul Ewing.
Not even members of the city council, the policy makers for Rockville, have seen the report and no summary has been submitted to anyone.
In so much that some of the complaints we fielded in our nine-month-long investigation included complaints against the City Attorney, one has to question the City Attorney’s decision not to release the information.
Motives, indeed, are in question. As for what the city did share with the public, some of the changes quite frankly are no-brainers and in fact so-much-so that one has to wonder why and how they weren’t put into place long ago.
Why must we now wait for a new Human Resource Director to implement these plans?
The problems and questions that were supposed to be cleaned up with this investigation have not happened. How the city handled the release of information has only fanned the flames of those screaming foul. Residents in the city are now upset with the new City Manager regarding her decision to abide by the city attorney’s decision to keep the investigation under wraps.
When I spoke with Barbara Matthews about the investigation and suggested some of the information not only could, but should be released in the interest of the general public, I told her that there were several attorney general opinions regarding investigations of this nature that indicated the public’s right to know had not been fulfilled with an entire zipped-lip strategy.
She told me that she had heard it said that the Attorney General is merely another lawyer with an opinion. This is a coy and callous response to a serious problem.
The city has a very bad image problem that will not be solved by refusing to divulge – at least to its policy makers – the nature of the investigation.
It’s been suggested this investigation wasn’t very thorough. There is evidence supplied to us from former employees that no one from the investigation spoke with them, and in some cases these employees say they tried to reach the investigators. This is bad government.
Others say they were asked only the shalllowest of questions.
So what exactly is in the report? Why can’t the city, if it wants to protect its citizens, come forward with at least a summary and a list of questions the investigators asked?
Names can be redacted from the report if the city really wants to protect people.
At the same time it can provide enough information to put to rest the questions rising about the thoroughness of the effort. But, bottom line, questions must be answered. Tell us what the complaints against the supervisors were at the very least.
I’m told the new city manager is a straight shooter. So am I. You’ve walked into a mess and made it worse by refusing to come clean. But the city council, as policy makers, are worse sinners and come off as weak by not having the juevos rancheros to demand a copy of the report. If I held office and paid for this investigation, then I would. The city and the public have a right to know.
Posted By: Dixon On: 12/14/2012
Title: it isn't just racism
The city has become corrupt in the sense that the M & C serve themselves lately. Boards & Commissions are filled with council cronies. Some sitting board commissioners have been there for almost quarter century. It's comical when you think about it.
The slam was always that MoCo was worse than City when it came time to make decisions on simple things, too long. Not anymore, it is now an even mess between the two local governments.
Looking at the City employment rolls, there are many names that are the same. Family members are hired at an alarming rate. Hirees stay just long enough to get experience and then jump ship to County for more $$.
Sadly, the City is no longer a contender in Annapolis. That distinction is with Gaithersburg. Rockville has rested on its laurels for so long, the branches are dead, dried out, and disintegrating. Like an old mattress, lumpy and stained, the City leadership needs to be replaced with new supportive and innovative people. Get rid of dead weight and reduce superfluous services.