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Candidate Speaker Series – next Sunday, March 9, Dist 2 supervisor Larry Wahl – and don’t forget, Spring Ahead!

Chico Taxpayers Association

Next Sunday is Spring Ahead, make note of that. We have Dist 2 supervisor Larry Wahl coming into the Chico library at noon to talk to us about his concerns and answer questions about ours. 

These sessions are very casual and you can ask what you’d like.  Issues we’ve discussed so far include State of Jefferson, marijuana initiative, global warming, staffing in various county offices, and an elected offical’s due diligence to their constituents. 

I don’t think everybody realizes, the June primary will be the end of it for a lot of these county and state offices, and it’s already March. Don’t dawdle, get informed. And, here’s your chance to inform these people what you find to be important. 

Please come on in, I’ll be there at 11:30 to set up chairs. 

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Council Meeting Tonight

Tonight’s City Council Meeting starts at 6:30 pm at 421 Main Street. The meeting agenda can be found here.

Of particular interest on tonight’s agenda are:

(1) Consideration of a draft social host ordinance that would impose liability on persons hosting, or responsible for, events on private property at which alcohol is possessed and consumed by persons under the age of 21. This is one aspect of the Clean and Safe program advocated by the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Chico Business Association. The agenda report linked below clarifies who is a responsible party under the ordinance; discusses enforcement, prosecution, and fines; identifies four exceptions to the ordinance; and sets forth a process for cost recovery. If you are a landlord, this ordinance may affect you, so please read the report and follow the hearings and outcome to make certain you are aware of your rights and responsibilities. (Draft_Social_Host_Ordinance)

(2) Consideration of a proposal to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol at the Bidwell Park Municipal Golf Course (Bidwell_Park_Municipal_Golf_Course_Alcohol_Sales)

(3) Sunshining of tentative labor agreements for four of the City’s bargaining groups. If you intend to have your opinion considered in the Council’s decision making, the best time to address the Council would be at tonight’s meeting. The next step will be to have the agreements put on the agenda for Council approval, and in our opinion, the likelihood of them being amended at that point in the process will be severely diminished. Red-lined versions of the agreements are attached to the agenda reports, so you can see what changes have been proposed. (International_Association_of_Firefighters; Management_Employees_Group; Confidential_Employees_GroupChico_Employees_Association).

If you’ve never attended a council meeting before, please know that there are typically plenty of seats, and you can come and go as you like (in case you can’t make it until after 6:30 and/or really don’t want to hang around until 11pm!). It’s okay to just come and observe — no need to speak unless you are so inclined. If you do wish to address the Council, there are speaker cards in the back of the chambers, and it’s as easy as filling out two fields and placing it in a basket. (Do make sure your speaker cards are submitted to the City Clerk’s station before your item comes up, particularly if it is on the Consent Agenda or under Reports and Communications, since there may be no discussion whatsoever if there is no request to be heard.)

If you can’t attend the meeting, you can watch from home via live stream or at a later date on the video recording. Our permanent link to the Council Meeting page, along with an explanation of how it works, is here: Watch Council Meetings

Again, we urge you to get involved. This is your community, and being informed and engaged is crucial. The Council works for you, so make your voice heard. Write letters, attend meetings or watch from home, ask questions and make comments on our blog posts, and hold the elected officials accountable at the polls.

Thank you for your continued readership. Please also continue to share our posts with your family, neighbors, and friends. As always, we welcome your comments and questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

CNR gets the Scoop

The Chico News & Review picked up the story we told at the October 1 City Council meeting and ran a detailed article in today’s issue. Many thanks to Melissa Daugherty for her fair treatment of what we had to say. We will be responding to Councilmember Sorensen’s remarks in the article in the coming days.

As always, we thank you for your continued readership and welcome any comments or questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

CNR_Constantin_Fields

Photo credit: Chico News & Review

The Truth behind the Admin Layoffs

As we have written and said before, this is neither personal nor political. It is simple truth that will not be revealed unless those who witnessed it stand up for what is right and tell it.

Section 2.72 of the Municipal Code requires Council adoption of personnel rules, and states in part, “High morale shall be maintained by fair administration of this chapter and by every consideration of the rights and interests of employees consistent with the best interests of the public and the city.”

Those personnel rules are codified in Chapter 2R.72 of the Municipal Code, and include the Council-adopted process for reduction in workforce, based on seniority and displacement rights.

One can only hope that it was Council’s ignorance of, rather than its complicity in, the flagrant disregard for those personnel rules that allowed Nakamura and his Executive Team to put personalities before positions during the July layoffs.

While there were examples of favoritism across City Hall, the most blatant and harmful to morale occurred in the reduction of the citywide administrative staff. The key to what happened lies in understanding the Administrative Analyst I and II positions.

The Administrative Services Director’s HR and Finance Analysts and the City Clerk’s Analyst were among some of the most junior in the citywide admin pool. Had the personnel reduction policies set forth in the Municipal Code been properly followed, all four of them would have been bumped. There were senior Analysts qualified to work in all of those positions. They simply weren’t the favored employees.

When layoffs first began to be discussed internally, Mr. Constantin stated openly in a staff meeting that he would be reclassifying his HR and Finance admin staff to protect them from bumping. Word spread quickly, since removing them from the bumping order would impact every single move within the admin layoffs.

On May 9, a memorandum went out from an HR Administrative Analyst II to the Confidentials unit proposing the “additional job descriptions” of Finance Analyst, Human Resources Assistant, Human Resources Analyst, and Sr. Human Resources Analyst and “separating [them] from the more general job titles of Administrative Assistant and Administrative Analyst.” Her title on the memorandum was HR/RM Analyst, not Administrative Analyst, which bears out the assertion that she was being protected. The attached job descriptions had minor changes specific to their work, but nothing of any substance. (2013-05-09_HR_Finance_Reclass)

When Mary spoke to her department head, Community Development Director Mark Wolfe, he was incensed. He stalked away saying, “They can’t do that. I’m going to go and talk to Chris.” Well, needless to say, someone shut him down and Mr. Constantin moved forward despite the personnel rules, with the City Clerk following closely behind.

On May 16, the law firm representing CEA, the employee group to which most of the administrative staff belong, wrote a letter to the City, which stated in part:

“I have received notice that the City Finance Director proposes to re-classify four Admin Analysts in a manner that would separate them from the Citywide pool of Admin Analysts, thereby removing them from being bumped by Admin Analysts in our unit…. If you take unilateral action to change the classification plan… you in essence change the already negotiated layoff procedure.”  (2013-05-16_CEA Letter to City)

That letter resulted in a meet and confer session with representatives of CEA, Mr. Orme, Mr. Constantin, and City Attorney Lori Barker. Staff’s concerns were discussed, without resolution, and CEA’s request for a seniority list was met with a claim that it had not yet been prepared, since the City was still trying to interpret the rules regarding bumping.

On May 29, during a follow-up CEA meeting, Mr. Constantin took the CEA representative aside and said that the reclassifications would be changed to “internal recruitments,” a move clearly intended to reduce pressure, but which only further inflamed an already angry staff. Everyone knew what the result of those “recruitments” would be.

The next day, staff received an email from Mr. Orme. He made several points, one of which was that “some in the organization… feel it necessary to create an environment less than pleasant” and asking that “anyone who is endeavoring to create rumors to stir the pot…to please stop. False information and speculation does nothing but create an environment of fear and frustration (and at worst, a hostile environment)…” Really? What did he expect, when the endgame was already being revealed bit by bit?

His email also stated “employees that may be impacted… will be informed by their department Director by the end of the work day tomorrow.” (2013-05-30_Orme)

The next day, a memo similar to the May 9 memo went out to all employee groups, still showing the title of HR/RM Analyst for the Admin Analyst II, further revising the job descriptions and adding new positions of Deputy City Clerk and Executive Assistant, both of which had starting salaries in excess of the Administrative Analyst II classification. This memo confirmed Mr. Constantin’s statement that “recruitments” would be held to fill the positions and noted that “While the employee groups have a right to comment on the proposed changes…. the city manager has the sole authority to modify the classification plan.” (2013-05-31_Proposed New Positions)

It was a flagrant end run around the Code, and employees citywide were disgusted to see it happening just days before layoff notices were scheduled to go out. Again, we all knew what the results of the recruitments would be, and it was shameful.

The official seniority list was provided to CEA on June 3 (2013 Seniority List_ORIGINAL), and then amended on June 4 (2013 ADMIN Seniority List_REVISED) to reflect a new development that would further alter the admin layoff order. Everyone was scrambling to understand what would happen, but as it turns out, the Executive Team wasn’t finished manipulating the system yet.

On June 5, the city manager sent a letter to CEA that included a list of employees being laid off, and these words: “Due to actions being taken in regard to both the restructuring of departments and the budget reductions, the number of positions within some job classifications are being reduced, a few positions are being reclassified, and the number of positions in a couple of classifications is being increased.” (2013-06-05_Nakamura letter to CEA)  Hmmm… there’s that reclassification word again.

On June 7, CEA wrote to Nakamura in response to his letter. It says, in part,

“Creating new job classifications during the current layoff process that are custom-tailored for existing junior staff members appears to circumvent the layoff and displacement rules under 2R.72.140 of the Chico Municipal Code, and may be in violation of Section 2R.72.070.A.

“Creating these new positions will result in the elimination of existing administrative positions that would otherwise be subject to displacement by employees… with seniority in the respective job classifications…

“There are members of the City Staff that have occupied the “new positions” being created… If they possess the skill set for which the ‘new classification’ is being created, and have more seniority than a member that is being moved to that position, then it seems only logical that they have a right to that position…”

The letter continues, “Layoff notices have been sent out, so the seniority and bumping rules are currently in play. With the new classifications having such narrowly tailored job descriptions… so as to heavily favor the incumbents in these positions, the net result will be… more senior employees in the administrative career ladder will end up being laid off… This situation makes a mockery of the concept of seniority and bumping rights as established in 2R72.140.F, is inconsistent with portions of the declared … personnel policy as codified in 2.72.020, and violates the basic concepts of fairness…

“We are very concerned… that the actions by the City in accomplishing this reclassification does not disenfranchise any of our members, who would then have grounds to file an Unfair Labor Charge against the City based on precipitous and aggressive actions… [that] seem absolutely timed to protect certain employees and discriminate against senior employees.” (2013-06-07_CEA_Letter to City Manager)

On the same day as the CEA letter, a memo from the HR Administrative Analyst (whose title had now been changed back from HR/RM Analyst) announced “In-House Recruitment Opportunities” for Deputy City Clerk and Finance Analyst. (2013-06-07_In-House Recruitments)

A separate memo from Mr. Orme announced similar recruitments for one HR Analyst and two Senior HR Analysts. (2013-06-07_Recruitment for HR Positions) That was a Friday evening, and on Monday, Mr. Orme emailed staff to revise the recruitment to eliminate the one Human Resources Analyst. (2013-06-10_ORME_Revised HR Recruitment) We have been told this was because of a City Attorney opinion that this one would not pass the smell test.

On the very same day, a new clerical chart was revealed that changed the number of Admin Assistant and Office Assistant positions. (2013-06-07_Original Clerical Chart)

Once Mr. Orme had rescinded the recruitment for HR Analyst, however, the chart would have resulted in Mr. Constantin’s Admin Assistant being bumped all the way out the door. But don’t worry, they figured out how to protect her later on…

So, the “internal recruitments” went forward, and although more senior staff who were qualified to hold the new positions applied, the incumbents all remained in their positions. Imagine that. None of the senior Admin Analysts retained their classification; they wound up demoted, with a pay cut.

On June 26, CEA was provided a revised clerical chart, increasing the number of Admin Assistant positions by exactly the number needed to protect Mr. Constantin’s employee. (2013-06-26_New Clerical Chart) Had they created one additional position, not a soul would have been bumped out the door. What a coincidence.

But perhaps the most galling incident of all occurred shortly after the layoffs took place. Mr. Constantin promoted his Admin Assistant to HR Analyst, with an accompanying pay raise, so that the least senior member of the entire citywide admin pool is now in a higher classification than one of the most senior Analysts, who had been bumped down two full classifications and took a 25% pay cut. Mr. Constantin surely has mastered the art of creating a hostile work environment.

While it is clear that none of this will undo the wrongs that have been done, perhaps bringing it into the light will prevent similar bad acts from occurring during the impending layoffs. And we certainly hope we do not see elimination of the additional Admin Assistant positions created to protect the new HR Analyst. That would be the Executive Team’s ultimate backhand to the rules set forth in the Municipal Code. As Councilmember Stone would say, “Disgusting.”

Council Meeting Tonight

Tonight’s City Council Meeting starts at 6:30pm at 421 Main Street.  Here is a link to tonight’s agenda:

http://chico-ca.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=65

If you’ve never attended a council meeting before, please know that there are typically plenty of seats, and you can come and go as you like (in case you can’t make it until after 6:30 and really don’t want to hang around until 11pm!).  It’s okay to just come and observe — no need to speak unless you are so inclined.  However, if you are so inclined, there are speaker cards in the back of the chambers, and it’s as easy as filling out two fields and placing it in a basket.

During these troubled times, it is more important than ever for citizens to exercise their civic rights and participate in local government.

September 29 Letter to the Editor

For those of you who do not subscribe to the Chico Enterprise-Record, we wanted to share Quené’s most recent letter to the editor, which was published today:

Letter: Council knew what was happening

Chico Enterprise-Record
Posted: 09/29/2013 12:32:47 AM PDT

In response to the recent editorial, “Has Chico been cooking books?,” this paper continues to presume to have knowledge of former employees’ perspectives on past practices, and the three of us who have created truthmatterschico.com wonder why we have not been contacted to confirm those assumptions. The fact is, we all agree that the city of Chico is in a financial mess. Collectively, we believe it has been in a mess for quite some time.

The gripe is not with the spending cuts. Rather, it is with the continuing stream of inaccurate information being put forth in public meetings and the media, and the shady methods with which the cuts are being made. The city has been overspending for years and the cuts should have been made long before Brian Nakamura swept into town. However, city staff works at the direction of the council, and for members of council to assert that staff was making choices without the council’s knowledge and support is disingenuous at best and downright deceitful at worst.

City Council has always had the power to have made spending cuts and staffing reductions that could have helped prevent the troubling financial times Chico finds itself in now.

The City Council works for the members of this wonderful community, and it is about time the citizens start giving them some marching orders.

— Quené Hansen, Chico

As always, we thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Nakamura’s Doctoral Thesis

We have requested this document from the USC library and will provide an update once we receive and review it. Interesting topic…

Nakamura Dissertation

P.S. Many thanks to our reader who pointed this out.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

The ‘racist’ email we’ve seen…

If you’ve been keeping up with the media, the Mayor, and Nakamura lately, or reading our posts, you’ve likely heard much about racist emails and threats of violence resulting in the need to add security to protect staff on the 3rd floor of the municipal center. I responded to that over the weekend, and since most of the comments we received on that post call for the emails to be made public, we thought we should share with you the only incident of which we are aware.

Normally, we would never release any email from our readers; however, since it has become clear that this guy (Dylan) is ‘playing dirty’ and copying the media and members of the Council, we feel it is appropriate to at least share the content.  We won’t release his full name or email address, because we know how crappy that feels, having had our personal contact info recently released to the public.

On September 4 we received Dylan’s original email, in which he used one racial slur in his last sentence. We discussed it and decided to ignore it, since even jerks have a right to question and criticize the government, so we simply responded to his request for information. He replied back, with an expletive, but no more racial remarks. And there were no threats whatsoever.

In the meantime, we got word that Nakamura had a hard copy of the email and was waving it around, showing it to staff in an attempt to hold us responsible for the words of another. We, of course, realized that Dylan must have either blind copied or forwarded to someone within the City; otherwise, there was no way Nakamura could have had it. We have an idea who this Dylan character is, but no proof, so we’ll just skip that issue for the time being.

So, we decided to just wait and see what happened next.

On September 19, we received two more emails from Dylan, this time openly copying the media, the Mayor, and two Councilmembers. These emails offered up specific opportunities for us to engage in character assassination, including what appear to be court cases and a link to one of Juanita Sumner’s blogs that described some previous unpleasant encounters with the Mayor.

Wow. What is this guy’s agenda?

So, last night we decided to ‘reply all’ and hopefully bring this whole thing to an end. As we have repeatedly written, our only interest is in exposing the truth behind the shenanigans at City Hall. We have no interest in personally attacking anyone involved; we just want them to be held accountable for their actions that have affected, and are still affecting, Chico’s citizens and taxpayers.

Here’s what we wrote last night:

Dylan,

Unfortunately, you have mistaken the intent of our website, truthmatterschico.com. We have no desire to ‘play dirty’ with anyone; we are simply seeking to expose the entire truth about the goings on in Chico’s administration, regardless of the political fallout. The three of us hold varying political views, but our determination to inform the public remains firm and is what binds our team together.

We are sure you know that we have been excoriated in the media as a result of the racial slur you used in your original email to us. Because none of us is your mother and therefore not responsible for correcting your behavior, we chose to ignore the slur and simply respond to your request for information; however, you should know that one of us has four stepchildren of Asian descent, and we disapprove of your use of the derogatory reference to the city manager’s heritage, as we disapprove of any racial, religious, or other personal slurs.

Since it has become clear that your agenda conflicts with ours, and your writings have become an obstacle to accomplishment of our goals, we ask that you refrain from contacting us in the future. We did not make the decision to speak out without thoughtful consideration of the risk to our personal and professional reputations, so this is not child’s play to us. Any further correspondence from you will be deleted without response.

Alicia, Mary, & Quené
Truth Matters, Chico!

Here’s the entirety of the email exchange, redacted as necessary to prevent further spread of Dylan’s ideas on ‘playing dirty’:

DYLAN_EMAIL_REDACTED

Again, under ordinary circumstances, we would never release any email exchange between our readers and us, but Dylan is playing an extraordinary game that could have dire consequences for all parties involved, and we aren’t going to play.

As always, we thank you for your continued readership and welcome your comments and questions.

Remember: Truth Matters, Chico!

Mayor Gruendl FB Rant

Res ipsa loquitur….

Gruendl_FB_ENTIRE

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