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Fire the City Manager

November 14, 2012

I submitted this yesterday.  I understand that there have already been PIA requests for it and all of my email.  Interesting.  I wonder if they know I have a blog?  🙂  I copied each councilmember, the city attorney and the city Secretary. I expect Monday’s meeting to be interesting. 🙂

“Mayor Jeffries and/or Mayor Pro Tem Krausse,

There are two items which I believe need to be on the agenda for the meeting on Monday. I understand that we are inside the 12 day requirement, and I also know that the city hasn’t posted the agenda two weeks prior to a meeting as stipulated by the ordinance. Also, there is an exception that an item may be put on the agenda by either the Mayor or the Mayor Pro Tem. I believe the subject matter is worthy of this special attention as I hope to illustrate.

First though, the two items for the agenda.

1) Discussion and action on the removal of Dr. Scott Neils from the position of City Manager, effective immediately.

2) Discussion and action on the appointment of an acting City Manager.

Following are the basis of my concerns.

Lack of communication

There has been an almost complete failure to communicate with the council regarding items of significant impact to the city. Most recently, the activity to install red light cameras has really disturbed me. Dr. Neils stated outright that he would have already put the red light cameras in place because he thought the previous traffic study completed the letter of the law. The blatant disregard for the will of the City Council is untenable.

Another example would be the negotiation of the trash contract. This was farmed out to committee which then came back and asked for unilateral control over the negotiations and the ability to sign on behalf of the city. As originally proposed, there was no mechanism for feedback by the City Council at all. In asking around from other cities, I’ve heard of no other city which has handled such a sensitive contract in this way.

This lack of communication regarding policy has been almost complete during his tenure as City Manager. I can think of no policy issues which have been vetted by email or otherwise, except possibly a water park which I believe to be far afield from the purposes of government.

Willful Lack of Transparency

During one of the budget hearings for CCPD this summer, I was stunned and amazed to hear Dr. Neils admit that the planks in the fence for the police department vehicle yard were put up explicitly so that citizens couldn’t see the cars in the lot and call and ask questions about it. I was further stunned when he claimed that it was then a matter of officer safety.

Recently, there were Police hearings which were handled by council other than our City Attorney. These were ongoing for three months before Council was made aware of them.

There was a meeting with Congressman Burgess, but no notice was given to Council that might have wanted to attend.

Lack of Accountability Toward Expenditures and Not Seeking Council Input

Dr. Neils spending $26,000 to remodel his office without speaking to the Council about it was at best unwise. He fielded this expense by himself without input from the Council. This is quite disturbing to me. While I have said publically, that I believe he should have had the discretion to make the changes, that he did so without Council approval was ill-advised.

Dr. Neils took it upon himself to close the library on Saturdays without involving City Council. While the Council was informed of the decision, it was made by him, again, without feedback from the Council.

I believe that Dr. Neils ambition and furtherance of his own agenda have put him at odds with the Council. It has gotten to the point where I wonder what he’s done and if and when the Council will be apprised of such decisions. An example of this was when he donated city computers to BISD. Were it not for one of the library board members thanking him for it, the Council would never have known.

I was deeply disturbed by the political high-handedness of the City Manager during his review this summer when he claimed all of the credit for projects which had already been in the works for months sometimes. The blatant politicizing of his position by having so many people come to sing his praises was also deplorable.

I understand that in the military, there is a policy that when one is promoted from an enlisted rank to an officer rank, that the promoted person is supposed to be reassigned to a new unit. I used to question the wisdom of this until I watched how Dr. Neils seemed completely unwilling to consider or evaluate or even present to the council for consideration downsizing or outsourcing of any personnel. I’d have to say that his previous tenure as an employee of the city has rendered him unable to be the executive which this city council needs.

When asked by Councilman Steele to talk to other city managers, Dr. Neils was very curt and unprofessional in his reply. Had this been the first such instance, I could see that it might be overlooked. However, Dr. Neils has acted in this way to other councilmembers, including Councilman Davis and Councilman Johnson on several occasions during his employment.

I do not believe that the city is well served by his management. In fact, his lack of candor and openness is detrimental to the city and undermines the type of government structure that the city has. The proposed changes to the charter which he has spearheaded will gut the charter and transfer almost all of the power from the City Council to the City Manager.

These issues may all be summarized in a claim that I can have no further confidence in our City Manager to accomplish his tasks and reliably inform the Council of what actions have been taken and the manner in which they have been handled. I do not have confidence that our City Manager may be trusted to do the bidding of the City Council, unless it happens to fall in line with what Dr. Neils wants to do.

While Dr. Neils has enough credentials to be able to fulfill the job, he lacks the ability to function as a part of a team and / or take direction from Council except when it fits his personal ambition. In the military, this is called insubordination. For the level of compensation that this city provides the City Manager, I expect that we can do better than continual insubordination, which is why I will be voting to remove the City Manager. I would like to have your vote to do the same. It will be in the best interest of the City to have a City Manager that will work with the City Council. I look forward to a working relationship which would facilitate the realization of the vision of Council.

Thank you for your consideration. I will look forward to having this item on the agenda for the benefit of the residents of the City of Watauga, whom we have been elected to serve.

Sincerely,

Russell Clements”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelly Smith permalink
    November 18, 2012 5:25 pm

    After reading your blog entry, I am strongly compelled to post a reply as a concerned citizen of Watauga. I work nights and am not able to attend Council meetings in person. As such, I want to thank the City for posting the videos online so I can keep abreast of what decisions are being made on my behalf. Here are my comments regarding a couple of the issues you bring forward.

    For the City Manager to arbitrarily circumvent City Council input regarding the closing of the Library is not only deplorable, but it seems to be in contrast of the City Charter which states in Section 2.01a that “all powers of the City shall be invested in an elective Council which shall enact local legislation, adopt budgets, determine policies, and appoint a City Manager.” Closing any public facility to me is a policy issue.

    As a former Library Board member for another City in the past, I frequently go online and review Watauga’s Library Board agendas and minutes. The issue of closing the Library on Saturdays was a discussion item on their January 12 agenda. It clearly states that a recommendation was to be made to the City Council, not the City Manager. The supporting documentation for this item clearly supports that action. The minutes for that meeting state the Board’s acceptance of the recommendation (again addressed to the City Council, not City Manager) with amendments. So, how is it that this item was never brought before the Council? Why should citizens waste volunteering their valuable time to serve on a Board if their actions are being completely ignored?

    http://www.ci.watauga.tx.us/Files/AgendaCenter/Agendas/387/LIBAGN011212.pdf
    http://www.ci.watauga.tx.us/Files/AgendaCenter/Agendas/387/Minutes/LIBMIN011212.pdf

    I also take issue with the City Manager’s decision to donate computers to Birdville ISD without Council input. While I have no problem with wanting to put outdated equipment to good use, I do have a problem with this decision not being discussed in an open forum. With all of the recent increases in water fees, etc., it seems to me that the City could have benefited from having the computers sold at auction. Was Keller ISD ever considered? After all, we do have a school in their district as well.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    • November 18, 2012 10:16 pm

      Thank you for your comment. I very much appreciate your comments, your very precise criticism and your well-informed feedback. Would you have any interest in running for City Council? 🙂

      I believe that most of the Council shares your concerns. I’m not sure if you’ll have taken the time to peruse the agenda for Monday, but there are several items on there that typify the growing discomfort with the City Manager.

      I am very impressed with your comment. I hope that I may look forward to more feedback from you. It is a great pleasure to be able to discuss items as they come up.

      Thank you for reading.

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