Layoffs in the New Chico Way
Fair warning, readers, I am mad as a hornet and this post is a pure rant, full of my own personal observations and opinions. Alicia and Quené are innocent of this; I own every bit of whatever is written. I will get back to the routine technical stuff once I get this off my chest, but for now, Katie bar the door.
It never ceases to amaze me that the Chico Enterprise-Record continues to be nothing more than the mouthpiece for the City’s new regime. What has happened to true journalism? Today’s seemingly innocuous article, “Two Chico city employees eligible for layoff bump decline to do so,” finally set me off.
Here’s a quote from the City’s nice-guy ambassador, Assistant City Manager Mark Orme:
“Once again the city had to unfortunately lose a vast amount of knowledge, know-how and amazing employees due to the financial situation we are in,” Orme said. “It’s a devastating hit to the city and we look forward to the day we can look back upon this time and hopefully never have to repeat it.“
First of all, what exactly does that last phrase mean? It’s just more of the same feel-good, meaningless babble from the top. Here’s more of Orme’s double speak: an email sent to City staff about the layoffs. The person who sent it to me wrote, “Well, that sure makes me feel better.” Yeah, especially the part about looking for someone to blame; that’s real class right there. And I’m pretty sure the employee quotes in the final paragraph either came from his own imagination or a couple of other Executive Team members. I call BS.
Just prior to the first round of layoff notices being issued, while we were all waiting to see who would get the axe, I found myself in the elevator with Nakamura, Orme, and Presson. Presson was regaling the other two with an apparently hilarious tale. They were yukking it up and knee-slapping like it was the funniest thing ever, and they continued their hilarity after they exited the elevator into the main lobby, and on out into the parking lot where they all three climbed into one car. It’s really too bad they couldn’t drum up enough true compassion for their employees, who were still worrying about whether or not they would soon find themselves in the unemployment line, to keep their raucous antics behind closed doors. That’s the way it is with this bunch. Disgusting.
Secondly, the current regime has intentionally rid itself of institutional knowledge, beginning with former Assistant City Manager Rucker in January 2013, and continuing with a broad swing of the scythe across department heads and other staff who were knowledgeable about the City’s financial history. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but Nakamura told former Building & Development Services Director McKinley (in my presence) that the Council did not want to know what happened. Very telling, that little tidbit, particularly in light of the current barrage of disinformation being put forth by that same Council.
The current round of layoffs includes former Capital Project Services Director Tom Varga. Nakamura unofficially but publicly demoted Varga, in front of roughly 45 other employees, the same day McKinley vanished. That happened months before the “rightsizing” had been approved and implemented. Nakamura and Public Works Director Ruben Martinez have been toying with Varga since then, alternately promising retention and threatening dismissal. They needed him for awhile, to get the capital budget prepared (since Martinez can’t even figure out his own department’s operating budget without help) and later to take the blame if the Highway 32 project fell through. Varga never really had a chance of being retained, though, since he can actually explain what happened with Fund 400 and the overhead. That just doesn’t fit into the new ‘Chico way.’
City Attorney Lori Barker, the final member of the current Executive Team with full knowledge of the events leading up to the City’s current financial crisis, is also jumping ship. We can only hope she is leaving on her own terms and not being forced out. It must be terribly uncomfortable for her to watch in silence while this campaign of defamation based on a false narrative is carried forward.
But I digress. Back to the article:
An assistant civil engineer decided to retire and an associate civil engineer decided to accept the layoff, in turn allowing two other employees who would have been bumped to retain their jobs.
The Assistant Civil Engineer who ‘decided’ to retire had already announced his retirement, to be effective at year end. Would it have ‘destroyed what is left of the City’ to have simply allowed him to stay on board through December? Given the level of shenanigans witnessed so far, I suspect the regime hoped he would go ahead and bump the Engineering Tech II. Then, once he retired, that job could have been eliminated as well. Instead, he chose to do the honorable thing and retire before he was quite ready. Kudos to Mr. Gillispie for his personal sacrifice on behalf of another.
There is also a very touching personal story behind the Associate Civil Engineer who accepted the layoff rather than bump the other Assistant Civil Engineer. I won’t go into details, except to say that as with Mr. Gillispie, Mr. Green chose honor over personal financial gain. These are just two of many stories about the people who truly make the City a family, and there is nothing the current regime can do to destroy the bond the employees have carefully built and nurtured over the years.
So, here’s the portion of the article that shoved me over the edge:
Some of those to be laid off contacted by this newspaper declined to talk.
Excuse me, but what the hell did they expect? The City employees have watched what happened to Alicia, Quené, and me when we spoke publicly: The Mayor openly attacked us both personally and professionally; the City Clerk showed our home addresses to a television crew; we were labeled as ‘disgruntled former employees’ and tied to alleged incidents of racism and violent threats by nearly every media outlet; and all the while, the Enterprise-Record has continued to run with Nakamura’s party line and editorialize about us without ever even bothering to speak to us.
After all that, does the Enterprise-Record really believe there is another City employee who would dare speak out to one of its reporters? I think it’s pretty much a given that the only talking employees will be doing in the foreseeable future will be to truthmatterschico, where their voices will be heard without the filter of Nakamura’s BS.
Okay, I’m done now. Thank you for your continued readership. I welcome your comments.