The Losses Continue To Mount Up...
A week ago I attended the retirement party for Maintenance Supervisor Helen Nenadal, who also spent the last few years as the President of the Costa Mesa City Employees Association (CMCEA). Helen retired after proudly serving the city in a variety of roles for thirty-two years.
ONE OF THE TROOPS...
Over the past couple of years I've gotten to know Helen as she became the face of the CMCEA in its strained relationship with the management of the city. Not a trained negotiator nor a highly educated person, she has been "one of the troops" - a peer they elected to look out for their interests. She stepped up and addressed the City Council to present their case time after time. She did that job well. Her story is a classic "up from the ranks" journey - she began as a part-time recreation staffer and moved on up as opportunities presented themselves.
ROEDER, HAYMAN AND PERKINS
Her party was attended by several dozen people - current employees, former employees, retirees from all levels of the organization and members of the community and her family. Former City Manager Allan Roeder attended, as did his former Assistant City Manager, Steve Hayman and former Human Resources head Howard Perkins.
FRANCIS, GAZSI AND GENIS
Assistant CEO Rick Francis was there, along with Police Chief Tom Gazsi - many of the CMCEA employees work for him - and counclwoman Sandra Genis.
I also saw Orange County Employee Association General Manager Nick Berardino at the party to wish Helen well in her retirement.
A LABOR OF LOVE
When Helen spoke about her career with the city she was clearly describing a labor of love - one that has been more difficult to manage over the past three years, when the attitude about employees changed at the highest levels of city management. The current council majority has, for the most part, treated employees like boxes of nails that could be easily replaced by simply calling the closest hardware store.
SHE WAS NOT ALONE...
As I listened to Helen and others speak, praising her, I looked around the patio and realized that she was not the only person to retire within the past few days. Three other people in the group also retired that day and more were to follow this week. These are just the most recent to decide to bail out, leaving a tremendous vacuum of talent and institutional knowledge to be filled. And, every resident of the city will suffer because of this loss.
MORE UNANTICIPATED TEMPS AND CONSULTANTS
I expect we'll be seeing a request for a huge budget adjustment to permit the Public Services Department to fill these vacancies with temporary employees and consultants within the next few weeks. We've already seen projects slip because there is insufficient staff available to perform them. We see even more overtime being required of the staff to complete what would have been normal assignments in better times. And the acrimonious atmosphere continues to fester as the lawsuit between the City and the CMCEA and the suit filed by Mayor Jim Righeimer and Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger against the members of the Costa Mesa Police Department continue unresolved.
As we approach the brand new year I hope more of you will begin to pay attention to what's happening to our city. We all should be concerned when our top elected officials consider litigation just another line item in the budget - a cost of doing business - even when it involves city employees. We should be concerned when the toxic atmosphere they've created causes folks to retire earlier than might have otherwise been the case and still others to seek lateral moves to other cities. This is just plain bad for the city and most of it could have - and should have - been avoided.
UNDERSTAND THE REASON...
So, when calls for service - whether for police, fire, building inspections, pothole filling, graffiti removal or almost every other service provided by the city - begin to be delayed due to staff shortages, please remember who is responsible for this. You elected them and you can certainly show them the door starting in November.