Monday, December 03, 2007

Why the City Manager Was Fired

It hasn't been much of a secret that Mayor Dale never wanted Hector Rodriguez to be the City Manager from the beginning when he voted against his confirmation.

It is no secret that Dale has been scheming to get rid of him ever since.

Dale didn't like him because he isn't white, isn't Republican, and isn't part of the old crony guard that has been running Barstow for years.

But most importantly, Dale didn't like him because Hector has integrity. He stood up to the Mayor's corruption in general while performing his duties in the most professional and competent manner in recent history.

But at the heart of Dale's contempt for Hector is the issue of MicroMedia. After throwing away 1.7 Million dollars that the City had already spent on the HDR contract, the Mayor tried to railroad the contract into the coffers of his buddies at MicroMedia. Hector wasn't about to compromise himself by going along with the Mayor's questionable schemes and Dale fired him.

Now that Barwest compromised our election process and imposed their puppets on the Council, Dale now has the power to do whatever he wants and treat the city like a cheap whore.

None of this was ever a secret and was in fact quite transparent. But finally Reporter Jason Smith has exercised a little journalistic investigation and the story is now in print for all to read. Here is that story:

November 30, 2007 - 8:53PM

Memos show disagreement between Council, staff preceded city manager’s departure

BARSTOW — Internal city documents show that the termination of City Manager Hector Rodriguez’ employment contract was preceded by disagreements between City Council members and city staff over the city’s wastewater-treatment plant upgrade contract.

A memo dated Oct. 30, written by Rodriguez and addressed to the council, accuses Mayor Lawrence Dale of interfering with the process, wanting to directly award the $15 million contract to Micromedia Filtration, Inc., instead of reviewing bids from other firms. Rodriguez wrote that he’d been given direction to award the contract to Micromedia in a meeting held on Oct. 18 with Dale and council member Steve Curran. Dale and Curran disputed Rodriguez’ allegations.

“The Mayor told me that the Council’s direction to me in this matter had been to write a (Request for Proposals) that would result in a contract award to Micromedia by effectively eliminating other potential bidders,” Rodriguez wrote in the memo.

“(T)his was in direct contradiction of Council’s direction to me. As city manager, it is my charge to carry out the direction of the Council majority. For me to do otherwise would be both illegal and unethical ... Council’s direction to me was to administer an open Request For Proposals process, the ultimate outcome of which is unknown at this time.”
Rodriguez stated in the memo that Dale had spoken directly with members of Buerau Veritas, the consultant which the city hired to assist with the request for proposals process, to select the wastewater contractor.

“The very reason why I requested assistance was due to interference from the Mayor in the negotiations,” Rodriguez wrote. “This interference appears to be occurring again, likely jeopardizing the fairness of the Request For Proposals process and opening up the door to litigation.”

Rodriguez did not return calls seeking comment. Dale and council member Steve Curran disputed Rodriguez interpretation of events, calling it a misunderstanding.

“I did not direct the City Manager to create an RFP that would eliminate potential bidders for the wastewater facility upgrade project,” Dale wrote in an e-mail. “In fact, the City’s consultant Bureau Veritas is now moving forward with an RFP process that will be advertised with all potential bidders.”

Dale wrote that he spoke with the city’s consultant because he worried that the firm is not moving fast enough to choose a contractor. Upgrades to the wastewater-treatment facility were mandated by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board because of elevated nitrate levels in the water. The city could face fines from $1,000 to $10,000 per day if it does not meet the July 2009 deadline set by Lahontan.

Citing a contractual settlement, Dale declined to state if the disagreement with the city manager was related to the council’s 4-1 decision on Thursday to terminate Rodriguez’ employment contract.

Curran said the bid-seeking process for the wastewater upgrade contractor is difficult due to the unique nature of the technology that Micromedia uses in its plant.

“The council voted 3 to 2 to go with Micromedia. ‘Go’ is a misused term. When you say ‘go with Micromedia,’ do you mean the firm Micromedia, or the technology behind Micromedia?” Curran said.

He voted against the council’s July 16 decision to cancel the city’s previous contract with contractor HDR Engineering in favor of Micromedia. The city spent $1.7 million on with HDR, but allegations of project delays and rising costs led the council to switch firms. Micromedia says its plan for the facility would save the city $1,183,600 annually in operating costs or potentially reduce each resident’s sewer bill by $11 a month
Curran said he isn’t comfortable with awarding the construction contract to Micromedia because of the young company’s lack of a track record.

“Our hopes are that other companies that use this technology will come up,” he said.

Curran said that some of the concerns outlined in the memo are related to an ongoing disagreement over city staff members’ interactions directly with council members. Curran said that although he’s heard rumors, he’s not aware of council members directly giving instruction to city staff.

“I would appreciate it if the city staff would come to me and say that this is happening. All we’ve heard is hearsay,” he said.

According to the Barstow Municipal Code, the city manager is responsible for day to day
operations of the city and the management of city employees.

“The city manager works for the City Council. The staff does not work for the council, the staff works for the city manager,” Curran said.

An Oct. 26 memo written by Rodriguez to the council and city department heads issued communication guidelines between city employees and council members.

“There have been occasions when Council members have met directly with staff, and when Council members’ expressions of opinion have been interpreted as direction,” he wrote.
The memo continued, “Council members may not give direction to subordinates of the City Manager ... Staff is required to adhere to this directive. Failure to do so will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

The communication guidelines were rescinded by a decision of the council on Nov. 5, the same day that the council voted to place Rodriguez on indefinite paid administrative leave.
City attorney Yvette Abich said that it was necessary to reverse the memo’s guidelines in order to clarify the communication policy so that council members can ask questions of staff members.

“Essentially the City Council is to work with the City Manager in giving direction to city staff, but the city staff is free to talk to city staff on the basis of inquiry,” she said.
She declined to comment further about the termination of Rodriguez’ employment contract or the circumstances surrounding his departure.

“The law says we can’t talk about personnel matters,” she said. “He’s got a right to privacy, and we have to respect that.”

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