Letter To The Editor RE: Elk Grove City Manager, Attorney Called ‘Unprofessional’ by City Employee

This is an open letter to the Elk Grove City Council and All City Employees in response the Elk Grove News article entitled, "Elk Gro...



This is an open letter to the Elk Grove City Council and All City Employees in response the Elk Grove News article entitled, "Elk Grove City Manager, Attorney called "unprofessional" by City Employee."


Editor:

I see that you have printed the letter that was sent to every member of the Elk Grove City Council by an employee of the city of Elk Grove. You have also redacted the name of the person who was copied on the letter.

Since I preach transparency, I will come forward and say that I am the person whose name was redacted. The reason being is that there are a handful of us who are “citizen watchdogs” (with or without lipstick before it was chic) who pay attention and for good reason. With that said, however, I am not the person who forwarded this letter to you.

There are certainly differences of opinions here based on this letter, city manager Laura Gill’s response and the "anonymous" postings on your website.

Here it is in a nutshell: If problems do exist, if city employees are too afraid to come forward with specifics and documentation, then there is nothing the citizens or the council can do. Shouldn't Laura Gill be given the opportunity to correct mistakes?

It will take a lot of courage to come forward but in order for there to be change and the fear factor must be overcome. Until or unless they do, nothing will change and frankly it will only serve to give Laura Gill and Susan Cochran more power.

Many of us, before, during and after the John Danielson and Tony Manzanetti reign, lobbied the council not to give one person too much power. And they listened. One example, the council reorganized and the city clerk’s position reports directly to the city council and with it a check and balance system.

I will give only one example where the citizens made a difference if trusted. When one standing council member wanted a high ranking current city employee fired, for unjust reasons, two citizens were told in confidence and asked to intervene. They did and employee was not fired. For you see, the citizens’ organization chart is much different than that of city employees.

Many questions need to be asked, but I will start with just three: Has Laura Gill cut the employees off from the city council? Are the council members only getting her side of the story? Does the council think the letter came from one disgruntled employee and all the others are happy as clams under Gill's leadership?

And here is where that fine line of micromanaging that comes into play and the proverbial Catch 22. The council hired Laura Gill to manage the day to day operations of city government, including the staff. But I have heard many a council member say in the past, when caught with egg on their face, “I didn’t know. I was being fed all my information from the city manager.”

If there are problems, employees will be left with two choices if they don't speak up, leave a good job or suffer in silence. Or do we wait until we start paying again?

But here is what we must remember. If one employee puts in a stress claim and it is validated, it opens up the flood gates for more and with the city being partially self insured when it comes to workers’ compensation insurance and benefits, we taxpayers, as we currently are with Danielson’s departure, will keep paying and paying.

And if and a big “if” there is a hostile work environment, it must be addressed when it still qualifies under the “Broken Window Theory.” Health is a major factor when dealing with a hostile work environment when it reaches a point of no return. If this is a situation they have to deal with everyday, city employees will start to feel helpless. This whole thing with work and the boss will consume their lives and will take its toll on their health. And again we pay if work comp claims are filed.

The employees may fear going to HR especially when a trusted HR manager recently left. Did this employee try and do her job (which she is legally bound to do) was rendered powerless, became a target herself and left? That is a valid question here. Depending on the answer, that would send a loud message to the other employees to keep quiet or "you're next."

Who among us hasn’t worked at one time or another in what we perceived to be hostile work environment? Can you remember the knot that formed in your stomach on Sunday night knowing that a full week of work was ahead of you? And because you needed that paycheck to support your family, not to mention the benefits, you sucked it up until the family and your health suffered, finally at the breaking point were you decided, “No job is worth this.”

Every time an employee is belittled in front of others and another doesn't speak up out of fear, against something the employees consider an "injustice", the employee feels bullied, abused, violated and most of all powerless. It is then that they start to lose their self esteem and confidence. Work suffers and the downward spiral begins to a stress claim.

And there will be people who will say that these are personnel issues and that is correct. But one look at Danielson’s 4.8 million dollars and what he was able to do unchecked because the council allowed it, gives credence as to why we must be forever vigilant.

In closing, city employees if there is any truth to what is going on, find someone you trust, tell them, giving specifics and most of all, documentation. Then it will be up to the five city council members to make sure, in closed session, that the problems are solved and we get down to the real business at hand, all working to make Elk Grove a better city.

Sincerely,

Constance Conley
Elk Grove, CA


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4 comments

Anonymous said...

Good points, Connie. This forum is not the first place I've heard bad stories about Gill's management style, so it's unlikely there's nothing to the complaints.

I second your call for an independent city council investigation though it may never materialize. In any case, knowing our council's proclivity to "give away the store" in employee contracts (to obtain the best employees??), I bet Ms. Gill has a lucrative severance package assured.

Nonetheless, should a council investigation uncover merit to employee allegations about Gill, surely some smart person somewhere can negate contract specs through proof of poor performance or judgment, being unfit or unstable for duty etc..

All you've said regarding hostile work environments is true. I can remember saying about one of my past jobs: "I don't know what I'm going to do in the future, but I know what I'm NOT going to do anymore."

Nice work, Connie . . . and no, I'll definitely not support Pat Hume in 2010. I look forward to his departure--a full year before he's eligible for lifetime health benefits!

Anonymous said...

Connie, thanks for looking out for the city employees, but I have to correct you about one thing. Employees could not go to the so called trusted HR manager that left. Don't be fooled. She wasn't trustworthy at all!!!!She was definitely not innocent in this. Whatever happened between her and the city manager, she completely brought it on herself. She was rude, arrogant and never looked out for the employees. She stabbed the police department in the back many times and wanted to take away what little we have. I wouldn't be surprised if she was the disgruntled employee that wrote the anonymous letter. She always talked bad about the city council and city manager and tried to turn employees against the city manager. I would rather have 20 Laura Gills.

Anonymous said...

This isn't the first time I've heard about complaints from city employees about Ms. Gill's treatment of subordinate staff; that her vocabulary is littered with four letter words, few of which are complimentary, and her reputation suggests an individual with a tendency to rule by fear rather than by positive leadership example. If any of this is true, it would be a classic recipe for a hostile work environment, and potentially open the city to fiscal vulnerability. It would seem extremely prudent at this juncture for the City Council to look into this matter and have someone privately interview the city employees to get to the bottom of what has been characterized as a less than benevolent dictatorship. If there is any truth to the allegations, the council owes it to the employees to take steps to correct the situation immediately. If there is no merit to these allegations, then Ms. Gill needs to be exonerated. That way you cover both ends of the issue and don't simply focus upon the negative. Doing nothing in the light of this subject matter is unconscionable. These comments in the editorial section have brought the matter to the light of day...which means that the Coucil cannot claim that they knew nothing about such allegations. Their obligation is now to look into the issues and confirm or refute them one way or another. Did anyone bother to check with her last place of employement to see what legacy she left there?

Furthermore, if there is merit to the allegations, I wouldn't want even one Laura Gill there regardless of if she was better or worse than her predecessor.

Anonymous said...

http://www.elkgrovecity.org/human-resources/printables/benefits-for-staff.pdf

Overpaid city employees with over the top benefits package.

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