What Is Talon Up To?
I received some disquieting news this morning. It seems that representatives of Talon Executive Services, the high-profile security firm retained by Jones & Mayer a month ago, HERE, to investigate the death of Huy Pham in anticipation of potential litigation, have been nosing around city facilities performing some kind of a security assessment.
HERE'S THE ANSWER - "SECURITY LAPSES"
I contacted Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell for information about this. He checked with CEO Tom Hatch and was told that during the investigation into Pham's death members of Talon's staff noticed what they described as "security lapses". According to Lobdell, upon hearing those concerns Hatch asked Talon to "provide, for free, an overview on what additional security measures should be added and the estimated cost". Hatch will then "decide how to proceed, if at all, based on factors such as cost, how specialized is the project, how urgently it is needed and which recommended measures he believes are needed".
NO DATES SET YET
Lobdell summarized this situation as follows: "Talon is giving the City a free proposal on how to enhance security. Hatch will decide the next steps (bid, no-bid, RFP, some combination of the three or leave security as is) after he receives and reviews the recommendations." No date for the completion of this assessment was given, nor was a date given for Hatch's decision regarding this security situation.
CONSULTANT CONTRACTS IN QUESTION
This is bothersome for a couple reasons. At last Tuesday's council meeting, when they finally got around to the Consent Calendar very, very late in the evening - after 90% of the audience had long since departed - there was heated discussion on a couple items dealing with single-source contracts - Lobdell and GrowthPort Partners. Both had received no citizen awareness nor oversight before they were signed, sealed and delivered and have subsequently evolved into much more lengthy - and costly - assignments. Lobdell has been extended through the end of this year. GrowthPort Partners was extended through June of 2012. In this case, it's not entirely clear whether Hatch will simply choose to retain Talon to perform whatever security enhancements they feel are necessary or whether he will generate an RFP to open the requirement for public bidding.
BIG BROTHER REDUX
Also, the expansion of the Talon Executive Services activities in the city, based only on what I know at this time, reeks of Big Brotherism. It has become well known that the current city council majority does not trust the city employees and CEO Hatch. We know this because Hatch told a meeting of members of the Costa Mesa Police Department that very thing in very unambiguous language. He said, "They don't trust us. They don't trust you and they don't trust me."
I WANT TO KNOW...
I want to know the scope of Talon's new assignment. I want to know just how far-reaching this "security assessment" will be. I want to know whether telephones will be tapped - I've already heard rumors about that - and whether regular monitoring of city email correspondence will be taking place. I want to know if listening devices will be placed in offices. I want to know if there will be security guards at each facility and whether our municipal facilities will become lock-down sites, where security badges must be shown and metal detectors passed through. I want to know if our municipal employees will be working as though they are in prison, where the warden(s) are the City Council. I want to know all of that and more.
WILL TALON AMPLIFY THE HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT?
This council has already created a hostile work place by anyone's definition. There was an attempt during the budget process to implement some kind of a computerized time clock situation. That initiative failed to receive budgetary support, but it's an indicator of the mindset of this council. Will the result of Talon's "free" assessment be an even more onerous work environment?
THIS COUNCIL IS TIRED OF CRITICISM
It became very clear last Tuesday that the current city council majority is tired of criticism and will use every legal means possible - and try to use some illegal means, as well - to stifle dissent from residents and other concerned parties during public meetings. By juggling the agenda Mayor Gary Monahan effectively quashed a large part of the public comments - most folks just couldn't wait until nearly midnight to speak and express their concerns and grievances. The exclamation point on Monahan's feelings was his ham-handed attempt to forbid resident Terry Koken from presenting his most recent observations to the council in the form of a song. He has done that twice before, so there's a precedent for it. Instead, Monahan badgered him and forced him to speak the lyrics to his song instead of singing them. He would not have permitted that if contract City Attorney Tom Duarte had not intervened. Monahan was ready to have Koken dragged from the council chambers - shades of Benito Acosta - and would have almost certainly exposed the city to yet another lawsuit.
TOO MANY CONTRACTORS AT CITY HALL
We have way, way too many consultants prowling City Hall these days. As one speaker observed Tuesday, "Who are these people?" If you look at the current budget, on the page that lists the senior management staff of the city and compare it to the same page in last year's budget you will find only one name on both - Public Services Director Peter Naghavi. All the rest of the "command staff" - those charged with making short and long range decisions to guide our city - are either contractors or other "interim" staffers. Most of these folks, while probably skilled professionals, have no long-term obligation or loyalty to our city and its well-being. They are basically mercenaries - hired guns given a mess to handle, who then ride off into the sunset without looking back over their shoulders.
THE "PERFECT STAFF"...
Early this year I joked that the current city council's idea of a perfect city staff would be Tom Hatch and a half-dozen contract administrators. I thought it was funny at the time. Since that seems to be the way we're headed, it doesn't seem to be all that humorous today.
HATCH UNDER PRESSURE
I understand the pressure Hatch is under these days. The council majority, ramrodded by Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, is running roughshod over our city and have absolutely no clue about the legal and ethical requirements of running a municipality. Hatch serves at their pleasure and a 9-month severance package is not much solace in today's economy. They demand he find budget dollars where there is none, then add more requirements that take staff to accomplish. They tell him he's doing a great job, then just load more work on his back with no resources to accomplish it.
OUTSOURCING RFPS A GOOD EXAMPLE
The outsourcing RFP's may be the best example of that. We are four months into the six-month notice period required by the bargaining unit contract and most of the RFP's have not even been released yet. There is virtually no way for them to be released, received back and analyzed sufficiently before September 17th - the date most non-public safety employees anticipate losing their jobs.
I'm worried that this recent revelation about the "security lapses" and subsequent retention of Talon Executive Services to provide an assessment may lead to an even more dictatorial approach to governance in our city. I'm worried that those employees who are left will find it harder to do their jobs with outsiders peeking over their shoulders.
PHAM INVESTIGATION COMPLETE
Incidentally, Lobdell tells me that the investigation by Talon into Pham's death is complete, but the report has not yet been provided. When asked when that will happen he said, "Soon". That was it.. no further explanation or date. So, we wait.