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Antagonism in Rockville

PencilPaperIn perhaps one of the most damning reports penned by a Rockville insider, former chief purchasing officer Ken Hayslette told the mayor and council in a 30-page report deposited with the city last week of the many problems threatening the city’s welfare.

The report is very enlightening in how it logically and systematically shows the city how to fix its purchasing procedures. Hayslette said he gave a copy of the report to the city’s CFO and the mayor and council. Rumors were he provided the mayor and council copies of the report because he was afraid if he merely gave it to the CFO, then no one else would’ve seen the report. He had no comment on that and neither did the city’s CFO, but the action Hayslette took did insure many others; including The Sentinel would see the report.

On that issue, there was also a rumor the city manager did not want The Sentinel to view the report.

There has been no comment from the city on that matter either, but the fact is the city didn’t officially and still has not officially replied to our request for the report. We obtained it elsewhere.

As for the report, Hayslette lays low the culture of the city and says, “The primary obstacle to implementing a more efficient and effective procurement function is the city’s culture of antagonistic opposition to change.”

The words, obviously chosen very carefully outline a cancer that has overcome and threatens the city of Rockville on every level: antagonism. That antagonism is evident in the city’s dealing with its employees, residents and members of the media. Whether it is setting up roadblocks to keep the media from public information, or settling lawsuits from disgruntled current or former employees, the city of Rockville has a very antagonistic attitude toward the rest of the world.

Hayslette points out part of the problem is the city “has serious drawbacks in that many city staff have no public sector experiences except with Rockville, and therefore, they are hesitant/resistant to changes.”

This speaks volumes to some of those in management positions who are under qualified or incompetent in the performance of their duties. They are in over their heads and lash out against others when questioned.

Hayslette also pointed out, “It appears that only a few individuals, usually in the lower tiers of the organizational hierarchy, are ever held accountable for their actions.”

While Hayslette is speaking specifically about purchasing and procurement, he put his finger right on the jugular vein of the problems endemic in all of Rockville. 

Hayslette also points out another very significant problem the city faces. “The pervasive attitude” in Rockville is that it is a wealthy city and therefore many members of the city staff are not conscious of costcutting measures. “New employees are provided with more information and rules on parking than they are on stewardship of the public’s resources of the basic procurement regulations,” Hayslette said.

The residents of Rockville and the council should be most concerned about that last bit of information for a good many reasons. The potential for abuse seems high and when “many more (staffers) are not” concerned about being cost conscious members of the council should be very wary of how they spend taxpayers’ money. Taxpayers and voters should be very concerned about who is minding the store and who is elected to mind the store.

The problems again go back to a perceived inability to watch over the city if you’re an elected official. The pervasive attitude is the council enacts policy and the city manager guides the staff – and the city charter certainly backs up most of that, but there is a huge problem with that.

Who watches the watchers? If the culture is as Hayslette describes – and by every indication it is a pervasive attitude with the potential of harm for those employed and those living in the city – then how can the city council cure its cancer?

Ultimately the elected officials will be held responsible – as they should – and not the appointed city management staff which is arrogant, antagonistic and by every accountable measure ignorant of the job before it.

Looking down the road, it may well benefit the city to change its charter and give the mayor the ability to fire the city manager for cause - as we’ve previously suggested.

In the meantime, the city council must do something that is rare in Rockville politics - think rationally as a political body and work together for the benefit of those who live and work in Rockville.

Only then can the cancer be removed.

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