And apparently, senior city management has issued a statement of support for Mr. Workman, though I’ve not seen a copy.. This is not surprising. Workman has hired several of his old Huntington Beach cronies to key leadership positions. The entire senior leadership team is dependent on Workman for their employment and compensation. I would bet this response is from a small group of city employees who have a direct conflict of interest.
Through the years, I have heard directly from a variety of city employees who have been dissatisfied with Mr. Workman. So I am not surprised by this protest vote. I am surprised that it took this long for city employees to act and that the City Council let it get to this point. If I have heard about it, certainly the Council has heard it.
Beyond the voices of city employees, I have personally experienced the management approach of Mr. Workman. And believe me he applies the same approach to the taxpaying residents that he does to city employees. Here is the direct evidence I have experienced and witnessed and my related opinions and assessments:
Mr. Workman will manipulate the law to its very edge and sometimes go a little further to get the outcome he wants. Recently, we saw that Mr. Workman was trying to influence a Councilman’s position outside the light of a public meeting when he offered to write a motion for Councilman Sammarco. Had Sammarco not accidentally committed a Brown Act violation, we’d never know about it. Illegal? - no. Underhanded - yes. Councilmen should arrive at their own motions after the full public process.
Another example is the City response to Public Record requests. Recently, I requested some simple public data that would have taken less than ten minutes to provide. The law allows government 10 days to respond. As with every other records request I have submitted, the City replied at 10 days that it needed more time to respond. As usual the requested data was produced after the City Council decided the issue, 23 days after submission of the request. And again the data could have produced in less than 10 minutes of staff time. This occurs on every records request I have submitted… one took 6 months to resolve. And I have witnessed other residents experiencing the same thing. The law allows the City to delay their response due to the workload involved. But in this case, for example, it was a very simple data request. Legal? – questionable. Ethical and transparent ?- no. As a counterpoint example, the City Clerk’s office (outside the purview of Mr. Workman) usually responds with election related information within 24 hours.
Speaking of the City Clerk, our City Charter sets up the City Treasurer and City Clerk as elected officials to provide a check and balance to the City Manager. Through his tenure, Mr. Workman has stripped these offices of key roles and responsibilities so that he now controls those tasks. Legal – questionable. Ethical – no.
Normally, funds generated in the tidelands have to stay in the tidelands. All the Cities I have researched take some of this money out of their harbors as an overhead tax or what Redondo calls an Internal Service Fee (ISF). So that is a standard practice. Before Mr. Workman came aboard, this fee took about $400K out the harbor each year. The other harbors I looked at, Dana Point, Oceanside, Santa Barbara, and Channel Islands, were similarly taxed at between $250K and $500K. So we were right inline with those harbors. After Workman got in, he upped that to $1.8M annually – more than 3x the rate of similar harbors. No wonder the City has not set aside money for infrastructure repair and replacement. Legal? – questionable. Ethical? – no.
I could go on and on, but I have presented four concrete examples of Workman’s manipulative approach to managing our City.
While Workman, Aspel and others say how they are committed to open government, the fact of the matter is, our City produces only what it absolutely needs to and then in a format that often renders the information useless or too late to act on.
I have already discussed the slow rolling of public records requests until after the matter in question has already been decided upon by the Council. So I will not repeat it here. If it happened once, you would think it was an anomaly. After years of repeated situations, it becomes clear the practice of slow rolling the release of public information is an intentional tactic to manipulate the public process and limit the public's ability to analyze and take action on the information.
Another example, a resident requested the fiscal analysis of the CenterCal mall project. The City took over 20 days to produce a 20+ page document that was almost entirely blacked out. Councilman Brand requested the data without the blackouts. As an elected official he is allowed to see even proprietary data. Workman only produced the information after the City Attorney told him that legally Brand had a right to receive the data. Why did the Council have to ask for this information? And it is questionable why all the material blacked out was considered exempt from public disclosure. Transparent? Hardly.
In an even more telling example of the lengths Mr. Workman is willing to go in keeping the public and Council in the dark, we have seen evidence the City produced an environmental impact study that left out key data that would have changed the conclusion of the study. The City’s analysis of the traffic impacts of proposed rezoning of Torrance Boulevard for hundreds of condos left out the most obvious intersection – PCH and Torrance Blvd. I requested the actual traffic analysis and oddly the spreadsheets had an obviously missing line that didn’t match the format of the rest of the spreadsheet. So I asked for the contract with the traffic consultant. Analysis of PCH and Torrance Blvd was indeed required as part of the analysis. After several more rounds, the city finally produced the same spreadsheet and graphics it had before, but with the data on PCH and Torrance Blvd included. The data was in the exact position of the previously missing line of the traffic spreadsheet. And the data showed that Torrance and PCH would go to an “F” rating, which is essentially gridlock. If you excluded that intersection, the proposed zoning would not have significant impact. If you included it, the finding would have had to be that the zoning would cause a significant impact that was immitigable. It is readily apparent what happened here. And it smells. This is probably why the City shelved this zoning change. I asked Workman and the Council for an investigation and surprise, surprise the investigation turned up nothing.
Another questionable practice was also revealed in the missing traffic data debacle. When I received the contract between the City and the contractor it was obvious the contractor had not delivered several of the deliverables and they missed several hard delivery dates. This was despite the fact that the City had already paid in full. I was told staff made verbal changes to the contract without any documentation. In federal contracting this is illegal. There must be public documented traceability. I don’t know California law, but I suspect it is similar. When I flagged the issue to the City, suddenly the contractor hastily whipped up the overdue deliverables. And of course the investigation results found nothing wrong with this situation.
What I have experienced is a clear and consistent record of using delay, undocumented contract changes, confusing and untraceable internal fund reallocations and reporting, and simply not publishing key information that does not support the desired outcome. Legal? – no. Ethical? – no.
I have personally experienced Mr. Workman’s approach to quieting those who question his actions – intimidation. As I mentioned earlier, I had an incident where it took the City over six months to produce public documents and information that we knew the City had to have. In discussing the request and incomplete responses, Mr. Workman threatened to file a lawsuit against me for creating a hostile work environment. Having been an Air Force officer and having worked as a federal contractor for over 30 years, I have to get training on this very topic every year. So I know what the term means and what is actionable in a lawsuit. But it is apparent Mr. Workman did not know I had that kind of training and was trying to intimidate me into silence and dropping the issue.
Recently, another resident told me he experienced the exact same threat. And one of Redondo’s firemen went to the press over Workman’s intimidation tactics. It is clear, that when smoke and mirrors won’t work, Mr. Workman resorts to bullying and intimidation. Some of us stand up to it, but how many have just backed down? No city employee or member of the public deserves bullying and intimidation. Legal – borderline. Ethical? – No!
WHERE'S THE COUNCIL?
The City Council is the City Manager’s supervisor. And the Mayor is the primary interface between the Council and the City Manager. It is incumbent upon them to take action responsive to the vote of no confidence by the City employees and the track record of the City Manager. If you consider all the evidence the situation is very clear. This is not just a compensation issue between the City Manager and the City staff. This is an issue of a pervasive and deliberate management approach that creates a culture of fear, intimidation and obfuscation. Claims of transparency at City Hall are laughable.
The City Manager only gets away with creating and continuing this caustic environment if the Council lets him. If they don’t act, they are complicit. Where is the Council’s reaction?