Why Bob Knapp?
During my holiday hiatus Costa Mesa Communication Director Bill Lobdell issued a press release announcing the hiring of long-time Costa Mesa resident Bob Knapp as Recreation Manager. You can read the entire press release HERE.
When I heard that Knapp's name was in the hopper several weeks ago my reaction was the same as many folks around town and in City Hall. We wondered just what made him qualified for this job. Lobdell's press release attempts to answer that question, but I'm not sure it does.
HE'S A GREAT GUY, BUT...
First, let me state right up front that I've met Bob Knapp and think he's a great guy. He's a strong family man with a couple boys who are star golfers. Bob has been involved in youth sports most of his adult life. He's been a highly successful businessman. But, to my knowledge, he has never managed a recreation program, much less a municipal recreation program.
MULTIPLE RECRUITMENTS FAILED
The press release indicates that the job has been open more than a year - since Jana Ransom left to run the recreation programs in Irvine. Recreation Supervisor Lisa McPherson has been trying to hold down the fort since that time. It is my understanding that the City has run three separate recruitment efforts to fill this job, each one apparently not turning up the appropriate candidate. That may be one reason they turned to a man with no real qualifications for this job.
The press release has this quote: “We are happy to land someone of Bob’s caliber,” said City CEO Tom Hatch. “He’s uniquely qualified, having run a successful business for years managing many employees and being deeply involved in and knowledgeable about sports and school activities in our community. He’ll give us a fresh look at the services we provide and further develop relationships.” Well, if "uniquely qualified" means no relevant experience, then, yes, he is that.
Maybe there's more to that "uniqueness". I think it's important for us all to know that Knapp is the son-in-law of Gordon Bowley, the President of Costa Mesa United - a major fund raising organization in this city. And, it's also very important to know that appointed councilman Steve Mensinger has been neck-deep in that organization.
HOW IS THAT RELEVANT?
So, how is that relevant to the issue of Knapp's appointment to the position of Costa Mesa Recreation Manager? Well, personally, I'm suspicious, because Knapp doesn't seem to have the appropriate background for the job and his family is joined at the hip with Mensinger. It is certainly not beyond reason to assume that Mensinger had a role in Knapp's selection. Do I think he told Hatch to hire Knapp? I think that's entirely possible, based on the way Mensinger operates. Do I like it? Nope, not one bit. I think that, if that did happen, its a gross abuse of authority and power.
PAY SEEMS RIGHT
The press release says we're going to be paying Knapp $105,516 in this job. I have no problem at all with that number. McPherson earned over $90,000 last year in pay alone, so that number seems about right.
After all is said and done, we're going to find out pretty darn quick if Knapp is the right person for this job. We're going to find out if the skills he brings to this assignment - which are very significant - will translate into him being an effective MUNICIPAL manager. It's a very different world than he's experienced in the past - as both Mensinger and Jim Righeimer have found out, much to their consternation. He will have to follow rules that may feel constricting to a guy who has run his own business. We just hope that he chooses to do the job within those rules and not try to bend or break them like his pals have done. In the meantime, that aroma of cronyism permeates the air.