Inside Job?

Do you know that our City is in the final phases of drafting our Long Term Vision/Strategic Business Plan Document? Do you know what is encompassed in that document? Do you know that instead of City staff drafting the document or hiring the company that has worked on the plan for two years (GFOA), the City decided to complete the project with yet another consultant for almost $2,000 MORE than the bid for the contract from GFOA?

The consultant the City has contracted with is a kind, intelligent, experienced resident. She also has a University degree, Board of Director experience, and is involved in the community.

Sounds good, right? Maybe so, until you discover that she is speaking and acting from the social/progressive/liberal thinking platform and the big government, redistribute the wealth kind of mindset. I have attended meetings where this person spoke and have read her writings and what others have written about her. During a City workshop, this individual expressed concerns over the City limiting tax opportunities. Does that sound business or citizen friendly? She also had enough influence to have our City Manager appoint a Diversity Ad Hoc Committee (we need a committee to focus on our differences?). Since this committee is an ad hoc, there is no need for council approval or for members to complete conflict of interest forms.

The newly hired consultant’s bid for the scope of work was over $1,700 more than the bid from the consultant the City has been working with for the last two years, Government Finance Officers Association. GFOA’s offer includes two of their own staff (or more) persons to complete the project. The contract of the person that City Manager, Joe Tait, hired includes only herself at $120 per hour PLUS her use of City staff to complete the project (additional cost unknown).

The newly hired consultant also has close ties to at least two entities that are partially financed by the City and are liberal/progressive organizations: CREER (dedicated to the empowerment of Latinos/Mexicans), and The Ecology Center, where she serves on the Board of Directors. While these may be lofty goals and activities, do they really qualify one for this position of producing a strategic business plan document?

The newly hired consultant has a history of serving “the under served” and working on global issues. So how will her political perspective impact the document that she is preparing for the Long Term Vision/Strategic Business Plan? Most businesses are concerned with free enterprise, being successful, filling a need, and yes, making a profit.

What happened between the time the staff recommended an action plan on 3/31/10 that did not involve this consultant and the agreement of 4/12/10 between the City and the consultant that contracted for her services to the City? What did she offer or what purpose does it serve the City to have hired her over GFOA? To my knowledge the City had and still maintains a positive relationship with GFOA and would have no reason to end their working relationship. It seems that GFOA would be the natural choice. It makes one wonder if the consultant is actually being groomed for a permanent City staff position or even council position.

Since our City is in a negative fiscal cycle, what would convince Mr. Tait, our City Manager, to hire a consultant when this outside (or is she inside) bid is considerably more than GFOA for the same outcome? ($11,232 plus City staff pay versus $9,600 total). Could part of the answer lie in the fact that this recently hired individual supports staff bonuses? I asked these questions and expressed my concerns to Mr. Tait and City Council members. Those that responded brushed any potential concerns aside and did not answer the questions asked.

The first choice would be to have a staff member compile the report. Mr. Tait says we do not have the existing personnel to complete that project. So, if we can’t do this with existing staff, then we need a professional or business firm with experience to complete this project, one that knows our community, is receptive and positive to the growth of business and also recognizes all the positives and negatives of the sustainable survivability of our business community and our City.

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