Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin
This is Part 3 of a three-part series focusing on the competency of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and his Office of the Mayor.
I was an assistant director and manager of IT with the City of St. Petersburg for 28 years. During that period, I worked for City Managers and strong mayors. This experience gives me a unique perspective on how the top leadership of the City of St. Petersburg affects the staff, its openness and effectiveness.
As the sewage crisis grew Kriseman cast desperately about to find someone to hang the blame on.
Kriseman was quick to sack Tom Gibson Director of Engineering and Steve Leavitt Public Works administrator, who were neither smart enough nor quick enough to jump on the whistle blower band wagon, but the real place he needs to cut heads is in his own office.
As a side note since Representative Jolly is making some sort of whistle blower protection available for City employees, my suggestion for City employees would be to take advantage of it.
Kriseman is always looking for a scapegoat, and you could be next.
It is time for Kevin King and Ben Kirby to go and Rick Kriseman to step up and be a really strong Mayor.
Let's get the spin merchant and political operative out of the Mayor's office and the decision-making process and work to improve the trust and confidence of the City employees.
I know many of these people.
They are good people proud of their City, and the vast majority of them want to serve the public and do the best job they can.
The problem is simply Kriseman/King/Kirby's "shoot the messenger,'" pass the buck and spin the " news" management style has the lid on all upward information flow.
Since there is a serious trust issue with the Mayor's office, just saying, "Everything will be OK" will not work and the reality is as long as Kriseman holds on to his crony security blanket not much will change. In fact, I would expect things to get worse - much worse.
Kriseman needs to hire or promote a chief of staff with some serious political and managerial experience and let Deputy Mayor Tomalin, and City Administrator Gary Cornwell do their jobs.
Once Kriseman has his own shop in order, which I seriously doubt he will do, he should hold a meeting with all management personnel and give them his guarantee that no one will lose their job for doing their job.
All of this puts a significant burden on City Council.
City Council must set up independent reporting and monitoring for all these major projects, especially as long as the current office of the Mayor stays intact.
Anyone on the St. Pete City Council that takes anything that comes from Kriseman's office or the City senior staff at face value without full vetting, and backup is not performing his or her elected duty.
Although it is something we avoided during my time at the City, it is time for City Council to consider creating a backdoor for City employees to the City Council either directly or through an advocate who works directly for City Council.
This comes with a significant amount of risk, but it may be the only way City Council can be sure the public's best interests, health and safety are being properly managed.
Kriseman through his office of the Mayor has created a managerial problem that is a least as big projects the City has in the works. Losing the trust and confidence of a nearly 3000-employee organization and trying to regain that confidence and trust is a daunting task.
I seriously doubt Rick Kriseman can fix the problem.
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