Monday, July 09, 2012

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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Anonymous Remember in November said...

Ha!! This city is more like Bell every day.

Perhaps the only difference is that our crime rate is higher.

7/10/2012 05:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Themosticles said...

There are dozens of outstanding candidates for jobs like this, with relevant experience not just in golf and youth sports, but also in senior services.

It's like the Rick Francis hire, where the search begins and ends with someone whose loyalty is more important than any relevant skills.

7/10/2012 06:10:00 AM  
Anonymous pure speculation, so what? said...

when you are as active as Mensinger there is a high probability that he may know the chosen person for the position. You are stretching in that Knapp> related to Bowles> who knows Steve=cronyism. Katrina knowsBowles, did she set this up?

7/10/2012 06:22:00 AM  
Anonymous History Channel said...

The 20th Century political world had Peggy Mensinger of Modesto. In 21st Century Costa Mesa we're stuck (for the moment) with Steve Mensinger of Costa Mesa, formerly Stockton. Reverse evolution.

7/10/2012 06:35:00 AM  
Anonymous History Channel said...

7/10/2012 06:37:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

Bob Knapp gave the McCarthy Tax association refrigerator magnets, (I think he's the Vice President)......I guess it's alright to hate public employees who get big salaries, but it's a little harder to go up to the podium and support firing them all when you become one.

I will agree with Tom Hatch.....leave it to Tom,..He is "Uniquely Qualified".

7/10/2012 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger Gericault said...

History Channel......that was fascinating read....

The fruit not only fell far from the's more like the apple tree grew an onion.

7/10/2012 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Tony D said...

Hello Geoff my good friend. Just wanted to tell you that I think Bob Knapp will do a fine job running this program. You of all people should know that he really doesn't have to have the background in recreation management to do a good job. He just has to be a good manager. You cited the previous manager, who I'm sure had years of experience in recreation management and guess what? She was incompetent. Bob will be fine and the city will be lucky to have him.

7/10/2012 09:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike M said...

If he's such a successful businessman, why does he need the job?

It does reek of cronyism, because it would seem they could have found a 'qualified candidate' if they recruited so heavily for it. How much did that effort cost, before settling on Knapp?

That said, I can give him the benefit of the doubt and see what kind of job he does, particularly since I have two small kids and am constantly looking to take advantage of the city's recreation programs. I'll wait to pass judgement, and hope that for once they did something right - even if they went about it the wrong way.

7/10/2012 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Moon said...

Politics is the business of rewarding your friends and punishing your enemies. Why is there, in the self named 'city of the arts', not a whit of interest in the arts? I'm disappointed at the focus and the choices, as I have been since the night Mensinger was appointed by Righiemer, his co-worker at SunCal . I've always marveled at the $500 campaign contribution Mensinger made to Righimer before being appointed.

7/10/2012 09:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike M said...

So what is the relationship between the two? Because that's just nuts. Thanks for posting - that really is fascinating stuff!

7/10/2012 09:14:00 AM  
Anonymous WhatWouldWestDo said...

"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." Good enough for me. Geoff, try throwing in your suggested candidate next time. Might add some credibility to your curmudgeonly column.

7/10/2012 09:19:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Not my job. I used to do that in my previous life. The City has a professional staff to do their recruitment.

7/10/2012 09:21:00 AM  
Anonymous History Channel said...

Mike M said...
So what is the relationship between the two? Because that's just nuts. Thanks for posting - that really is fascinating stuff!

I believe that Peggy Mensinger was Steve-O's aunt.

There is a God and she obviously has a sense of humor.

7/10/2012 09:24:00 AM  
Anonymous columbo said...

"mmon" is "fascinated" with a campaign contribution of $500 ? May I suggest he think big picture instead of focusing on the shiny object? $500 is a rounding error in Riggy's budget, not a payoff amount. anything that happens here immediately has cm4rg saying we are Bell or Vernon. Except there have been not arrests or resignations or investigations here. The unions have lawyers who you can bet try to find things, guess what NADA! alf is weird.

7/10/2012 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Costa Bell said...

Money changing hands again. This should open the eyes of the folks that have had their head in the sand. These MEN (Mesinger, Riggy, Monoham) are crooks. Back-yard deals left and right. How many developers and friends get rich while the City cries poor? I am ashamed that Tom Hatch would put up with abuse of power. Is his nose so brown he can't see the reason anymore? Shame on them but shame on you if you let this continue to happen.

7/10/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Sean said...

Wow, sounds like Peggy Mensinger had a soul. Something I can scarcely give Steve credit for.

7/10/2012 09:59:00 AM  
Anonymous NO Charter said...

columbo wrote:
"..fascinated with a campaign contribution.."

Hi Steve! Why aren't you more like Aunt Peggy?

"..there have not been arrests.."

Stay tuned.

7/10/2012 10:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Knapp is a great guy. I've seen him over at Mesa. Love that he's an Estancia dad with a great business background. Much better than Jana Ransom who had no connection to this community. I don't think she lived here. Keep making hires like this and our City will finally start getting better.

7/10/2012 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous Tamar said...

Geoff, you know the men and the department much better than I do, but in this case I disagree with you. I’m much more concerned about the pay than the qualifications. Being a good manager and having an interest in all recreation and an open mind ought to be good enough.

What I object to is the recruitment and pay of top salary to obvious political allies. In civil service, employees don’t usually come waltzing in at the top of the pay scale; an entry salary would be expected to be below that of the experienced predecessor, not equal. Entry salary for Recreation Manager, according to the contract published on the city website as I understood it is $91,152. Mr. Knapp is starting at $105,516. A working stiff would put in a number of years for the extra $14,000.

This problem is illustrated even more dramatically in the case of Dan Joyce. The published contract shows a starting salary of $101,544 for “Legislative and Public Affairs Manager.” Mr. Joyce started at the top salary of $136,000, a jump of over $34,000. What were his “unique qualifications”?

These salaries were agreed to by the councilmen who claim they cannot afford to pay our current truly qualified specialists like highly skilled mechanics, who earn much less, even after years on the job. Since these recent top-dollar hires are political allies, one might expect cronyism.

In order to counteract the appearance of political payback, I submitted a couple suggestions for the charter. One is the election of planning commissioners. The other is an appointment process for other positions based on objective criteria, similar to that used by those government agencies that are committed to the best service to the public. We’ll see whether either one gets attention.

7/10/2012 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Gericault said...

See thats why "Unions" are good .....there is always some other person looking over your shoulder and it keeps cronyism and graft down. Union leaders are democratically elected so if enough "graft" and "cronyism" gets involved they " elect" you out. Republicans, in this faction of the party, are fighting this tooth and nail amongst their own people. West, Genis, and Leece, included.

7/10/2012 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Please... said...

Gericault...unions INVENTED cronyism and graft. And democracy? Please. Hoffa was president of the Teamsters from 1958 to 1971...and don't think he lasted that long without kneecapping or putting a bullet in the eye of a few of his opponents.

7/10/2012 08:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Sackrates said...

A Riggclone wrote:
Gericault...unions INVENTED cronyism and graft.

Yeah, right. Ancient Rome and Greece were full of strong unions, as were the various dynasties in China. Not. You must have been homeschooled in the 909 or West Virginia.

Cronyism and graft were invented by the various clergy of all faiths. Get a *BOOK* and look it up.

7/10/2012 11:21:00 PM  

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