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City Hall: Cronyism, intimidation, manipulation, and obfuscation

On Tuesday, Redondo Beach city employees including our public safety officials submitted a vote of “no confidence” on the City Manager, Bill Workman.  And while they cite their disagreement on their compensation package, if you listened to the main message it was about Mr. Workman’s treatment of city workers.  In Workman’s press release response he ignores the main message and just addresses compensation.  This in and of itself is an indicator of his leadership style.   In his press release, he tries to make city employees look bad while trying to divert the public’s attention from the main message.

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:

MANIPULATION

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.

OBFUSCATION

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.

INTIMIDATION

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?





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Harold Johnson December 06, 2013 at 04:32 PM
Yes Kelly, you are so right! How have we allowed our elected officials to continue to hire their friends, and the cancerous tumors that keep coming back!(Diel$) I am so outraged that when I am not out earning my honest living 5 days a week like you, I am prepared under the law, to start asking the City for numbers which I plan to publish on a regular basis. I may even start to ask for explanations at the podium. Most people would allow their conscience to help them do the right thing. The problem with that is you must have one in order to make it work. Maybe we should start to concentrate on workman's bosses, the council! Maybe they will put an end to this tyrant. I can see them running workman out of here eventually, and then trying to pass the reigns to Pete grant, our oh so capable assistant city manager. This is another one of workman's Hunnington Cronys brought here to be a loyal subject. Please, let's not make the same mistake again. Let's remove the whole tumor, not just parts of it.
Harold Johnson December 12, 2013 at 09:41 PM
The Tuesday night council meeting, it had become the best reality show on t.v! The closest show I can relate it to is survivor. Every week I tune in I want to see the Person that is the liar, schemer, just rotten person voted off. In the case of our city management, they just keep coming back and protected by their alliance. So there were some highlights though somewhat benign. First, a employee by the name Deborah (sorry I didn't use your last name due to spelling) got up and used an analogy about workman borrowing her boat and not giving it back in regard to employees compensation. Deborah, it's worse than that! Let's look at it in a pure financial perspective. You all loaned workman and the council 6 percent of your overall compensation, then you did not get a increase during that period. Next, cost of living continues to go up each year along with fuel, food, housing. He not only borrowed your boat, he used your money to fix it up, sold it at profit, kept the money, and ask for more to do it over! Did the city offer to return your funds on record? Maybe a lawyer is indicated with a big lawsuit! Don't worry, when mike Webb gets on the case you are sure to win. He hasn't won a case yet for our city! Workman continues to use our employees money on his building out redondo projects and hiring employees from Huntington.And you mentioned workman's "Monday morning message" God only knows what that is! If you are an employee, please post them for all of us at the patch! With workmans ego, they should be a laugh! The real highlight came when a gentleman spoke from AES, towards the end of his talk, aspel's little puppet ginsburg hit a hot spot when he began to ask about the joke of a million dollar fountain with no water under the king harbor sign! Aspel couldn't grab the puppet strings fast enough! I'm sure he punished his little kid in closed session when they adjourned. What a joke. Goes to show you, these Cronys have no voice, they just do the bidding of whomever carefully placed them in their spots! Who knows, maybe workman became embarrassed about his compensation increase and had some form of conscience. Doubtful, but hopeful. If our employees are the lowest paid, and workman is one of the highest in the area, please someone post the numbers. We all must remember, like it or not mr. Workman, you work for us! It's not "more to steal", it's "more to sea"
Kelly Sarkisian December 14, 2013 at 10:15 PM
Jim..lthere are some wispers coming out of city hall...what have you heard?
Harold Johnson January 14, 2014 at 04:06 PM
Dear Ex-mayor Gin, are you still out there? I watched some of the old city council meetings. I watched as you, and all of the council members praising your great employees for volunteering 6 percent wage concessions to help the city get through tough times. I remember councilman Aspel sitting right there on the council line up. I also remember you saying "we hope to return those funds in better times" could that be a verbal contract? Maybe emoyee groups should look at that as an option. God knows mike webb would lose the case as he does all the others brought to him! And maybe the assistant city manager and personnel director at that time should be deposed. Someone is dishonest and lying. I have watched redondo sell out, and even add our tax payer dollars to bad development. Stop the tyrants from destroying our city. If you lie to the employees that serve you, you will lie to anyone. It is clearly time for mr. Workman, and mr. Grant, and all of those mindless automatons that workman place in management spots to pack your bags and go destroy another city! I support wearing black bands! Remove redondo's cancer!
Itell Thetruth January 23, 2014 at 11:56 PM
Redondo beach residents beware! Recently I have watched the resurgence of Don Szerlip. For those of you that don't remember this gem, he was the one time district three councilman that had a couple of very public temper tantrums. One was when he flashed his city councilman badge and went on a tie raid on a redondo resident because he could not get his car by. The second was when he beat his wife and was then arrested. These guys just keep coming back in search of power and recognition. Now it appears he is doing work for Bill Workman. Mr. Szerlip, we didn't like your activities when you were in office, hence the reason you were not re-elected. Redondo residents will not forget you. Please go away and crawl back under your rock!Your services are not needed here. Google his name and read all about this guy.

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