Friday, June 28, 2013
Process in government is important. Legal steps are in place to protect the rights of both citizens and public servants, and to ensure that public officials fulfill responsibilities and stay within the law.
That said, we encourage Mayor Arthur Babitz and the City Council to look at all aspects of process — inside and outside of meetings — in Wednesday’s special meeting of City Council.
Babitz called the meeting in response to the June 24 resignation of City Manager Bob Francis.
Babitz won’t talk about the issue, stating that it is a pending personnel issue.
But we argue that a personality clash is not the same as a personnel matter.
Had there been concerns raised over Francis’ job performance, or had criticisms of Francis come forth from his latest employee review session, this emergency could be described as purely a personnel matter.
But the fact is, Francis has not had an employee evaluation in at least five years, so there is no current formal personnel process to respond to or deal with. Relations with Babitz turned frosty when Francis called Babitz on the mayor’s attempts to meet with fire department rank and file, without going through either Fire Chief Devon Wells or Bob Francis. That happened just after Memorial Day, and Francis said Babitz has not spoken with him since.
Though Babitz disputes this, other city officials say that Babitz essentially ignores Francis in visits to City Hall. It’s an act of isolation, and should never happen no matter how tense things are.
Arthur Babitz has taken a firm hand in city business in his five years as mayor. Partially through his guidance and expertise, the city has restored budgetary balance.
Babitz is goal-oriented, and has a keen interest in the history of this community and a genuine concern for its future.
And so does Bob Francis. In addition to his work over nine years as manager, he has been heavily involved in United Way, Rotary and the Tsuruta Sister City Program, among other efforts.
Francis has overseen the transition from two downtown city buildings to consolidation in the current city hall facility; worked with the fire department on the complicated, and highly needed, bond passage and construction project to replace the old fire hall; and has overseen two successful Urban Renewal (UR) projects, and is overseeing another to start this year.
While Babitz deserves extensive credit for getting the city back on its fiscal feet after a decade of operating in the red, it was Francis’ management of the city that saw the vision carried out. Francis asks for partial credit, but gives most of it to his staff at City Hall.
In Monday’s meeting the council must be open to addressing — as Babitz has stated — all options regarding Francis’ June 24 announcement.
Among those is Francis’ willingness to “discuss compromise, as long as more than one of us are willing to discuss compromise.”
Arthur Babitz in recent months has said openly in public meetings that he is “following the script” that he reads before public hearings. He wants to ensure everything is done according to Hoyle.
That instinct should accompany him to when he is not running public meetings.
Public process also includes keeping to the need for elected officials to set policies and then get out of the way and allow city employees to carry them out. Elected officials should refrain from attempts to steer daily operations, and express their concerns over any employee through proper channels. They should follow the script.