It’s nice to know somebody reads my blog once in awhile. While watching Tuesday’s Tustin City Council meeting, I learned that our City Manager, Jeff Parker, has enough time on his hands to at least occasionally peruse my stuff. How do I know this? Hmmm…. it was probably the comment he made as he addressed the city council about an item on the agenda.
Item 8, on the consent calendar, had to do with amending the city’s classification and compensation plans to incorporate some class name changes and the addition of a few new classifications. Now, you have to understand, I am still running on Amantetime. So, it was natural for me to question the validity of this and what the city manager was up to. I mean, I had already discovered he could hire (and we presume fire) a deputy city manager without permission. When I had asked the human resources about their procedures, I found out there really weren’t any and City Manager Jeff Parker could pretty much do what he wanted. There was one little slip in the fact that the position, Deputy City Manager, did not exist at the time (yeah, there was an Assistant City Manager but that’s not the same as I later found out). The hire date of just before the end of the year seemed peculiar since, when asked, I was assured there was no difference in compensation. I still think there was a reason, but I have yet to figure it out.
With this item on classification though, I just knew I had them. And when Parker said he pulled the item for discussion because, “recently, there’s been some articles about the item,” (that would be here) I knew I was on to something. That feeling was reinforced as Parker went on to say how all of this was in line with addressing budget issues. He spoke about how, overall, these actions would save the city an immediate $450,000, give or take. After appropriate questions by Councilmember Gomez, the matter was voted in and Parker had another pat on the back.
I wasn’t buying it. I was sure I would dig up some cronyism or nepotism or some other type of ism somewhere. So, I decided to go straight to the horse and hear him try to squirm out of it. Emailing Jeff Parker myself, I asked him several questions regarding the changes. Sure, he might be encompassing an overall savings but at what price? Were the new classifications receiving more as individuals? Would there be a spate of employees who formerly worked for the good CM at another city coming to roost in Tustin? It is a fact that, when the news is potentially embarassing from the city, it takes ten days to get the information; when it is good news, I get a phone call or email the same day.
So, I got an email from Parker a few hours after I sent the request assuring me there was no subterfuge. In fact, the change from Assistant City Manager to Deputy City Manager netted a savings of $41,000 with an additional downgrade of responsibility Jeff told me, “The DCM serves like a Department head as opposed to being the number 2 in the organization.”
Likewise, he related, changing the communications manager to a management analyst would result in a $34,000 cut and downgrading the HR position to a manager from a director add another $35k in savings. The only upswing were the two Deputy Public Works positions that now top out several thousand dollars above the abolished positions. Oh well. The tradeoff was two new positions for four old ones.
Overall, Jeff assured me the savings to the city would be $370,000 with an additional savings in benefits of $80,000. Not bad for a day’s work.
It is not often we get to pat someone from the city on the back. In this case, Al Murray’s “Good job” was well deserved. Although we still have our doubts about the PARS retirement package, we do appreciate when the city manager discharges his duties in a responsible manner. More and more he is showing us that he is capable of running the city in spite of the city council’s efforts to the contrary.
Work with me here…
You probably know that I make a lot of requests for information from the city. And, under the California Public Records Act, they are obliged to give it to me whether they want to or not (mostly not). A lot of stuff I ask for, admittedly, is a fishing expedition that will hopefully turn up the dirt I am looking for. Sometimes you just have to connect enough dots to make sense of what our “transparent” city is trying to hide.
A reader of mine (and apparent staffer at City Hall) alerted me to the impending departure of Tustin Human Resources Director, Krisine Recchia. I smelled a story of pain, deceit and freedom but I don’t publish unverified information. So, I was looking for something that would indicate some truth to the story. While making another PRA request I decided to slip in a second request to “provide me with the resignation letter or other documentation on the resignation of HR Director Kristine Recchia. A half hour later, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from the lady herself.
Kristine said she saw my PRA request for her letter of resignation and knew the city probably would decline to provide it to me due to personnel matters. So, she wanted to make sure I had the correct story about why she was leaving the city. Indeed, she had accepted a position with the city of Pasadena as Director of Human Resources. Kristine, who came to the city of Tustin from a Santa Fe Springs mid-level management position, has been with us for about six and a half years. Of her move to Pasadena, she said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for me. I will be moving into an expanded position with much more responsibility. The city of Pasadena is a full service city with over 800 employees. I am looking forward to the new challenges of a new job.”
When asked, Kristine was adamant that she loved Tustin. In fact, she lives here with her family and intends to remain here. She said the only motivation for her move was the new opportunities that would come with the position. I imagine the new salary will not hurt either. In comparing overall compensation between the two cities, Her base compensation could rise more than $30 thousand dollars a year. There are other perks that go with a job that size as well. And, she won’t have to change retirement systems as both Tustin and Pasadena are in PERS.
In speaking with Dan Chmielewski of The Liberal OC, Dan said that Kristine is one of the few staff members whom he felt always tried to be as transparent as possible with him. “It’s unusual to find an HR director who will be as frank and professional as Kristine is”. The fact that Kristine wanted to get in front of her departure and make sure I had all the information I needed says volumes for her reputation.
Kristine officially leaves city employment for greener pastures on September 30th. Please join me in bidding her a fond farewell and good luck in her new position. One thing is for sure: Pasadena may be a much bigger city but they still have the hometown feel and lots of trees (and the world class Norton-Simon Museum of Art). So, Kristine should feel right at home. And, as we said before, she intends to continue to live here with her family so we will not lose her completely. Hmm. Perhaps we’ll see a new side of Kristine.