September 30, 2008

Stortz raises questions about chief operating officer

Letter sent today to Mayor Art Ward by former Mayor William Stortz:

September 30, 2008

Dear Mayor Ward,
As you recall, over the years, I have supported the idea of a Town Manager for the City of Bristol. However, the current proposal seems like a diluted version of the concept of a Town Manger and raises some questions in my mind, and probably many others. Since it will be on the ballot this November, I am hoping that you can clear up or otherwise address some of my concerns.
First, I do believe that no wording changes can be made to the issue on the ballot prior to the November election, for logistical reasons as well as because the wording submitted is the wording that the petition was based on. Also, if it does pass and some changes are appropriate for whatever the reason, those changes will require another Charter Revision Commission and subsequent placing on the next ballot for the people to vote on. Therefore the city will have to function with the change as approved, even if it has some defects. While I believe I am correct, could both of those issues be responded to?

Second, I am not aware that a salary has been set for the COO position. I would ask that you send that issue to the salary committee and have them respond prior to the election so that the people can have some idea as to what the position will be costing the taxpayer. Since it will be your administration that probably fills this position, it will be your salary committee that sets the salary. If the proposal passes, the salary range will have to be determined prior to advertising, so determining and publicizing it now is expediting the process just slightly, but also giving the voter a better base on which to judge.

At the same time, the question of the Mayor’s salary should be addressed. Again, if the proposal passes, the Mayor’s duties will be significantly affected. Will that justify a change (reduction) in the Mayor’s salary? I know that the salaries of elected officials cannot be changed during their term of office, so any change would be effective after the next election, but again, the people should know this before they vote on the proposal. Also, that would be a concern as individuals make a decision relative to their running for office.
In the same area, I would like to see a tentative budget prepared for this new office. Again, while it will be an estimate, it is likely that a budget will have to be submitted to the Board of Finance for the normal budget process, and that budget process will probably start way before the new person is on board. An estimate is better than nothing for BOF purposes, and again will provide the voter with a clearer picture of the financial impact.
I have many other areas of concern, but I will submit just one of them at this time. I do want to research the others before I raise additional questions.

The basic question revolves around the reporting/responsible to process. This involves any Department Head that “works” for a Board: I will basically use the Police Chief and Police Board in my example, although the concept would seem to apply to other Department Heads also.
The proposed Charter change says (section 62 (b) (1), in part, the COO shall be responsible to exercise general supervision over, the Chief of Police. It also says (6) provide leadership and direction .. to develop and implement the City budget….

The current Charter, Sec 45 (a) says.. The Police Department shall be under the general supervision of the board of police commissioners. Sec. 45 (f) says in part… Said Board of Police Commissioners, subject to the approval of the City Council, shall make rules and regulations for the government of the Police Department….

Which prevails?

Similar language exists for the Fire Department.

Park Department, a somewhat different issue: Sec 34 (f).. Said Board shall have exclusive power to make rules and bylaws for the ordinary transaction of business….

Library: Sec 38 (b) Said Board shall have exclusive control of all the properties of said Library…. If they want something done, whom does the Library Director listen to?

It also seems like Sec 62 (b) (10) gives the Council additional powers, unless any direction they provide is limited to power given them by Charter. Currently they do not appear to have any operational authority.

Mayor, there may be language somewhere in the current Charter, or in the proposed changes that addresses these seeming inconsistencies. If so, I would appreciate knowing where. But you know, and I know, that if there is some vagueness, sooner or later it will become an issue, between the COO, the Mayor, the various Boards, the Staff. This could lead to bargaining unit problems or management problems. It could put employees in the middle, which wouldn’t be fair, or it could create conflicts between the various parties involved. This could be even more of an issue where boards are involved and the mayor chairs the board.
If I am overly concerned, ore if the problem has been or is addressed, let me know if you will.. If I am anywhere near right, then this should be addressed so as to not put the city in the middle.

Even if my concerns relative to the reporting structure have been or are addressed, I would still like a clearer picture of the salaries involved, and the anticipated budget. I am confident that the voters would like to know that too.

Sincerely,
William T. Stortz

*******
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you Bill. I'm voting "no".

Anonymous said...

No wonder I feel like I am living in a cartoon. Stortz reminds me of a cross between Barney Rubble and Drew Carey, lol. All jokes aside, he does have some valid concerns here. Ole Art better get his puppet-masters (Nicastro and Minor) to give him some answers so that he can reply accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ken Johnson, Gary Schaffrick & Co. for screwing up Bristol (if this passes) big-time.

Anonymous said...

However, the current proposal seems like a diluted version of the concept of a Town Manger and raises some questions in my mind

You are right Bill. We don't need a "town MANGER" unless you plan on putting all the political animals in it.

But relative to the COO, We don't need a town MANAGER either.

Stortz Trooper said...

Go Bill Stortz, Go Bill Stortz, Go Bill Stortz, GO!

Anonymous said...

And the wheels of progress come grinding to screeching halt at the hands of Bill Stortz!

Thanks Bill

Too bad you didn't put this much effort into holding department heads like Rosenthal in line when you were mayor. That would have been one less headache to deal with today.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mayor Stortz. I would also like to know the answers to your questions.

Anonymous said...

9:14

If you remember, Stortz did not reappoint Rosenthal, but couldn't get the votes to remove him, as Rosenthal is a big democrat fund raiser.

Tim Gamache said...

I find it a little curious that the proponents of a COO position who worked so hard to get it on the ballot in Nov. have done nothing since in the way of providing the voters with the necessary information to make an educated,informed decision.I know I could never vote yes with so many unanswered questions relating to COO salary,authority or accountability.

Anonymous said...

This is the guy who worked hard for two years to accomplish nothing. That wasn't easy, I'll give him credit. If your aginst the COO, Bill, then I'm for it.

Odin said...

There are over 500 non-Board of Education employees in the city of Bristol, and the payroll is over $1 million. Does anyone really think that one more employee is going to bankrupt the City?

Odin said...

Oops, I typed that wrong. The payroll is $101 million. My bad.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh, its going to take Artie a few days to read this letter and comprehend it, never mind find someone to write down the answers.

Anonymous said...

11:14pm - wow, board of finance would be real happy to only have to put up one million dolars to cover the pay of over 500 BOE workers - think that you need to do a bit more homework.

Anonymous said...

Odin:

I wasn't aware that each city employee made $200,000.00.

No wonder people want to work here.

Anonymous said...

Sorry 11:44, just because it took YOU a long time to read the letter (never mind comprehend it), doesn't mean that EVERYONE has the same problem....and judging from your silly, pointless comment, you should probably consider getting someone to help you think about your comments before they write them down for you....sounds like you could definitely use a little help in that department....LOL!

Anonymous said...

We have a city budget of over $170 million and you're concerned over the potential salary of a COO?!?

With the oversight offered from this position, it will more than pay for itself. There is so much waste in our city it is ridiculous. Our Mayors and our administrations, no matter what their party affiliations, have always played favorites with different groups or departments. Officials historically have been afraid to do anything against the unions for one. I do not want to bash the unions, and I apologize for hurting anyone's feelings. Our union workers do a great job, but we have to be realistic. They are a large, well organized voting block, that affects elections. They are smart and deserve credit for this, however, their best interests are not always everyone else's best interests. Government and services can be streamlined and made more efficient. Unfortunately sometimes that may lead to hiring freezes or layoffs or restructuring, which is something the unions would obviously fight. Job security for their members is priority number one. In these times though, something has to give. We can not rely on our leadership to make these tough decisions. They simply choose to ignore it and allow it to be someone else's problem.

Anonymous said...

Odin:

The question is not whether or not this new position will bankrupt the City. Clearly it won't.

But,it will cost the city in the area of $250,000 a year when you factor in salary, benefits, time off, office staff (he will need at least one secretery), office space and equipment. My estimate is probably a little conservative.

The real question is: Is it right for the City. So far, none of the proponents of the position, or anyone else, have laid out anything concrete about anything (just like the schools! lol) Mayor Stortz is right on point with at least most of his questions. Those are all issues that would seem to need to be addressed and until they are I can only vote no on the position. There's too much unknown and no one has done anything to prove that it's right for the City right now.

Anonymous said...

Bill did nothing as mayor. He was a deadbeat! Now he has all the answers. He was the WORST Mayor Bristol has seen.

Bill, please try to run for Mayor. We all want to show you how much your not wanted!

Stortz Trooper said...

Bill, as I was since 2003...I'm with you!

Go Bill Stortz GO!!

Anonymous said...

Why is it that when some one asks questions they get insulted on this blog? Are you afraid the answers will come out? I'm glad the concerns were aired and I want to be informed on this COO issue. The truth should not be hidden.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

Go Bill Stortz, Go Bill Stortz, Go Bill Stortz, GO!

and the classic "Thank God for Bill Stortz!"

A simple question to ask, which scenario is worse:

A large well organized voting block of citizens, despite their occupations with the city.

or

A powerful unelectable, unaccountable political appointment that is financed by the taxpayers?

Mr. Stortz questions are legit and a more detailed description of many of the points I have been raising here for the past few months. Who prevails the boards or the bureaucrat?

Anonymous said...

Who cares what the worst Mayor in Bristol's history thinks?

Anonymous said...

All the proponets of this question did was give the people of Bristol the right to vote on it.

If you don't want to live in a democracy than move to North Korea or Cuba. Then you will see how lucky you have it to sit at your computer and spew your venom, without repurcussions.

Anonymous said...

For those who are opposed to the COO, like Tim Gamache, the unending list of nitpicky questions will never be answered to their satisfaction. The bean-counters and naysayers will always oppose anything visionary.

But if you are truly undecided, think about who is opposed to the COO, and why. The answer to the first question is: the career politicians and the city workers unions. The answer to the second question - well, do I really have to spell it out for you?

Stortzing the Bastille said...

I thought the worst mayor in Bristol's history was Couture?

Thank you Bill Stortz for your efforts and your concern.

Anonymous said...

And now that we have the right to vote, we should be as informed as possible.

Obviously Mr.Stortz took the time to get some documentation, which heretofore has not been made public. He read it, and came up with some questions.

I applaud him for that.
Hopefully it spurs addotional questions, and public dissemination of the information.

Surely his many years of being in office gives him a unique insight to the issue.

Anonymous said...

3:03

You are partially correct.

Stortz was the second worst mayor.


Seven others are tied for first.

Anonymous said...

Here is the answer....The charter panel folks like the concept of a town manager and they way it is written is to slowly take aways any power the mayor might have down the road - or should i say at the flick of a switch it could be down. Listen to all you crazy people..The Mayor salary will be nothing more then a council member salary in a few years. Give the Town manager a chance..Look around the city - why not give it a chance?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see Bill opening the questioning.

As usual, he is putting the people before politics.

Tim Gamache said...

Questions about what the overall package(salary,benefits and necessary staff) would cost,what and how much authority position will have and last,but certainly not least,what sort of accountability will position have to the taxpayers/voters are "nitpicky?" Are you for real? Are you suggesting the voters should simply vote for what amounts to a "blank check?"Come on!

Anonymous said...

Blank checks seem to be the way government works these days. The Treasury wants a $700 billion dollar blank check why not Bristol?

Anonymous said...

Bill,
I am a democrat and although I don't agree with a lot of your issues, I still like you as a human being. I would think you would know better than to express an honest opinion on here because these weirdo's on here think the whole world is wrong and they are right. They're just trying desperately in vain to find someone to agree with them. So like I always say , consider the source.

Anonymous said...

Based on my reading of the Blog on the Personnel Review Board, looks like Stortz was right on the money.

People may not like him, but he sure has Bristol's best interest at heart!

Anonymous said...

When will teh public get answers to these questions, and a better explanation of what the COO is all about?
Upside?
Downside?

Anonymous said...

When will the public get answers to these questions, and a better explanation of what the COO is all about?
Upside?
Downside?

Anonymous said...

Tim: Please stop asking the same questions over and over, and start listening to the answers. No one knows what his salary & bennies will be, so stop asking. It will probably be in the $250,000 range (including the secretary). He will "exercise general control over the following officers of the city:..." and his duties shall "include, but not be limited to, supervising, and evaluating, and disciplining these officers of the city." He shall be accountable solely to the City Council, per the proposal, so stop asking. His contract will contain a "severance agreement" provision if the Council is dissatisfied with his performance. If you can't vote yes without knowing the EXACT pricetag, or if you need the voters to be able to fire him, vote no.

Tim Gamache said...

6:09 1)salary will "probably" be___?2)"general" control?Do you think the language could possibly be more ambiquous?3)voters would have to rely on the same individuals who approved he/she as COO to dismiss for ineffectiveness?Not sure I'm comfortable with that either.As for asking the same questions over and over,I will continue to do so If I wish(don't believe I need your approval,nor do you require mine) or at least until the proponents of this proposal can provide much more specific answers.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Do you know if Ward has responded yet?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone expect him to?

Anonymous said...

Most people agree at the least the Democrats and the Republicans - Stortz was the worst Mayor in the City of Bristol.

Anonymous said...

Does that mean that the idependant thinkers support Stortz?

I think that there are a lot of people out there, d's and r's,that still would support him.

I would.

Anonymous said...

Heard that they are talking $350,000 for the COO and secretary, with the benefits.

Just personnel costs, not total budget.

Will be interesting when they do announce some figures.

Anonymous said...

10:33 of course you would your Bill Stortz a legend in your own mind.

Stortz has had two failed administrations only an idiot would give him a chance for a third.

Anonymous said...

Go Bill Stortz!

Anonymous said...

Steve, do you know if Stortz received a response?

Steve Collins said...

No, I don't. I'll ask the mayor and/or former mayor soon.

Anonymous said...

Must be more of a problem than we thought if it is taking so long to get answers.

Or are the politicians playing games again(still)?

Is Ward for or against it?

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Any luck contacting either one?

I think that the public has the right to the answers.

Steve Collins said...

Stortz and Ward swapped emails yesterday. Ward said the city attorney is still working on an answer.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!

I would have thought that the lawyers would have covered this in the beginning.

Did Stortz break new ground here?

Is it that complex?

Did the lawyers do due diligence early on?

I am even more concerned now.

Steve, are you going to follow up on this in the Press?