City Council Policy 100-6 & Town Hall
While out of town for a long weekend of birthday pampering by my sweet wife I tried to stay in touch with the important issues that were percolating here at home during my absence. Funny how things just don't seem to stop while I'm away.
The most disturbing issue is something I wrote about just before I left - the disclosure by the City of Costa Mesa that it would rescind the three "outsourcing" Requests for Proposals (RFPs) that had already been issued and that they, and all the other RFPs, would be individually evaluated by "Contracting Committees".
The stunning part of this announcement is that there is a seventeen-year-old council policy - 100-6, dated 8/15/94 - that provides very specific guidelines for the process required when contracting city services is anticipated - and that this policy had been very specifically ignored when the current council launched its bogus outsourcing scheme last March.
HERE'S THE TEXT OF COUNCIL POLICY 100-6
This policy, the link for which was provided in my earlier post, is copied verbatim below.
SUBJECT - CONTRACTING CITY SERVICES
POLICY NUMBER - 100-6
EFFECTIVE DATE - 8/15/94
The financial instability of the State of California and the lingering effects of the economic recession have significantly impacted Costa Mesa’s General Fund resources. To that end, the City Council has directed that greater emphasis be placed on the development of an operational master plan for each department which addresses short and long-range service delivery objectives.
At City Council’s direction a hiring freeze was implemented in July 1991. The purpose of the hiring freeze is to allow departments to analyze service delivery and to systematically achieve, through attrition, optimum staffing levels for each service provided by the City.
It is the policy of the City Council that the hiring freeze be utilized as a tool to achieve long-term service delivery efficiency in each department. The City Council remains committed to treating all City staff in a humane and considerate manner. It is the City’s goal to achieve optimum service delivery through attrition whenever practical. Where practical, contracting for services will be considered as a viable, realistic alternative to providing such services with City staff. The opportunity exists to look beyond our current organizational structure and to review options for downsizing and/or contracting service delivery. Additionally, new self-sustaining services may be considered for implementation utilizing either outside contract services or contracting in as was achieved by our staff with the in-house maintenance of our Police patrol vehicles.
Written proposals for contracting City services may be submitted from any source through the appropriate Department Head for consideration by the City Manager for evaluation by the Contracting Committee for further study. The following is an outline of the basic process which will be utilized for evaluation of contracting proposals as they occur.
The Contracting Committee is comprised of three segments:
1. Project Responsibility/Facilitator
Budget and Research Officer
2. Department Representative
Department Head, Manager, and/or Supervisor of service being evaluated. Representatives from the service area being evaluated with the technical expertise and qualifications to knowledgeably discuss the contracting proposal.
3. Employee Representative
Representatives designated by the appropriate employees’ association to evaluate and provide input regarding the specific service being evaluated.
The contracting evaluation process is described below:
1. The entire evaluation team meets as a group. The appropriate department will review and explain the components of their written contracting proposal. The Association representatives as well as the facilitator group will have the opportunity to ask specific questions of the department to clarify their understanding of the proposal under circumstances.
2. The team will work together to outline how to evaluate a comparable City effort to provide the same or similar services that would be required of the contractor at the same or lower cost.
3. The project facilitator will determine what, if any, additional back-up data and/or information is required for evaluation of each contract proposal, and will direct the preparation of a draft analysis addressing the available alternatives for service delivery as outlined by the team. The options evaluated will include a “contracting-in” component, if deemed appropriate by the Committee.
4. The findings included in the draft analysis will be presented to the entire evaluation team.
5. Based on the draft evaluation, a decision will be made if outside comparative data would be useful. For example, survey other cities that contract out for the same or similar service to estimate our expected contract cost. Determine the approximate staff effort that will be required to maintain and oversee each contract based on the experience of other cities.
6. Based on all of the data collected above, if contracting remains a viable option, the appropriate department will prepare a Request for Proposal (RFP) for contract services.
7. The appropriate department will provide a written evaluation of each option addressed by the contracting team for service delivery.
8. The project facilitator will prepare an analysis of all of the alternatives available for service delivery including pro’s and con’s of each option for review by the City Manager and ultimate approval by the City Council.
9. City Council reviews each proposal and makes approval accordingly.
10. The affected department(s) implement the City Council’s direction.
IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE THIS ISSUE
Although I tried to keep my mind off this kind of stuff this past weekend, this was like the proverbial eight hundred pound gorilla - impossible to ignore. I kept thinking about just how different the past five months might have been if the current Costa Mesa City Council had not just charged ahead like a herd of bulls in a china shop with their outsourcing scheme and had, instead, taken a more rational, reasonable approach. If they had, for example, discussed their plans with the employees through their bargaining units and followed this policy, it is very likely that none of the chaos and turmoil we've seen since St. Patrick's Day would have occurred. We might not have seen Mayor Gary Monahan effectively end his political career with his callous disregard for the tragedy at City Hall that day. We may not have seen seasoned, excellent employees leaving the city in droves. While we will never know, it is possible that Huy Pham may not have leaped to his death that dark day.
HARD TO REMAIN CALM
It's very difficult to not get angry about this now. Those of us who have been watching this scenario play out understand that there are national political issues at play here, and that a big part of this council's actions are driven by a political imperative delivered by folks higher up the food chain - at the county, state and national level. That doesn't make it any easier to swallow, though.
RULES ARE "BUMPS IN THE ROAD"!
It's hard not to get angry when we read that city officials describe this new revelation as a "bump in the road" (Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer) and "They knew from the beginning that there would be things thrown in their path." (Interim Communication Director Bill Lobdell). Really? Following city rules is a "bump in the road" and something "thrown in their path", like a spike strip to be avoided? The arrogance of these guys! With absolutely no humility I will remind you that I've been warning you about these jokers from the beginning. The current council, directed by Righeimer and his pal, Steve Mensinger, don't like to be bothered by little things like policies or other inconvenient rules. This is precisely what I expected to happen.
SO MANY QUESTIONS
So, as Righeimer - the main perpetrator of this scheme - wings off to China today on a week-long junket to dazzle the officials in Ordos - the million-person empty city - with his charm and business acumen, we wonder just how this new revelation is going to play out? We wonder if city officials knew of the policy and decided to strategically ignore it, assuming nobody would be the wiser? Did they roll the dice and try to jam the outsourcing scheme through without proper legal advice? We wonder if former City Attorney Kimberly Hall Barlow knew of this policy and based her advice to not proceed with the outsourcing plan on its existence? We wonder how the city's failure to follow its own, long-established policy will be viewed by the courts? And, finally, we wonder how the family of Huy Pham - the young man who has recently been characterized by some as a drug-addled, mentally-unstable slacker - might view this violation of city policies as being contributory to his death?
TOWN HALL TONIGHTWendy Leece's Town Hall tonight will deal with "public safety" and I have no doubt that the conversation will turn to the reduced staffing levels of the Costa Mesa Police Department - an arbitrary decision by the council majority based on numbers they pulled out of the air - and of the plans to potentially shift the Fire Department personnel to the Orange County Fire Authority. And, I expect the dismantling of the A.B.L.E. helicopter program might get some discussion, too. These moves are all part of the grand scheme by the council majority to look like pension reformers while simply destroying our once-proud city. I'll see you at the Neighborhood Community Center at Lions Park at 6:30 this evening.