Sunday, June 14, 2009

Now That The Shoe Is On The Other Foot . . . .

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, four councilors and their supporters have been treated to much whining and gnashing of teeth by Brocato supporters. Many complaints center around the process by which Mr. Brocato was removed, citing a lack of public input and that the action surprised some with it's suddenness. The Baker City Herald picked up on the theme, first brought up at Tuesday's Council meeting by Brocato patrons, in Friday's editorial, "Council didn't quite make its case." See

While the Herald acknowledges that the Council, by majority vote, "can fire the city manager any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all" their Editorial Board stated that "The four councilors should have told Brocato on May 26 that if he didn’t substantially improve in the areas where his ratings were lowest, and within a reasonable time — two months, say — then he could expect the Council to consider a motion to fire him."

I'm a bit of a process freak myself, so I'm not going to say its a bad suggestion for a Council to consider, but neither I, the Herald Editorial Board, nor a group of disgruntled employees and other patrons, happen to have been elected to make the hard decisions for Baker City--the Council was.

Assuming for a moment that public input, warnings and giving time for an employee to improve their performance are worthy standards to be followed in such matters, why not inquire as to how Mr. Brocato himself, and earlier Councils have measured up to those standards?

As for public input, Mr. Brocato has been the individual most often involved in denying input from members of the public who disagree with him. The Vicky Valenzuela incident comes rapidly to mind, but there are many others. One is the way he denied help and representation to Ron Calder at the May 26th Council Meeting. Recently in fact, one might think that the ex-City Manager invented the phrase "Point of Order, Mr. Mayor" due to the number of times he has used it to deny public input at Council Meetings.

And what about firings without warning?

You may remember the sudden firing of both City Attorney David Fine and City Planner Evan McKenzie by then City Manager Brocato. Here is how the Herald described the situation in their article "City loses two more administrators" from September 25, 2007. (

"Brocato, in an e-mail Monday, announced that he fired Planning Director Evan MacKenzie and City Attorney David Fine on Friday.

Brocato declined to say why he terminated the two, although he said there was no specific incident that led to either MacKenzie's or Fine's termination.

"This is a personnel matter, I can't really talk about it," Brocato said.

The article also mentions that "Troy Phillips, the economic development coordinator for Baker City and Baker County, resigned" at Mr. Brocato's urging just a month earlier. Mr. Brocato's explanation, in one of his famously mysterious moments: "My style is moving in a different place than Troy's circumstances." I see.

The Case Of Mr. Zimmerman

To the best of my knowledge, the last City Manager, prior to Mr. Brocato, who was actually asked to resign/fired was Gordon Zimmerman. In any event, Jayson Jacoby wrote an article about the firing on March 12, 2003. See "Council forces city manager out"

On the element of surprise, Mr. Jaycoby wrote: "It started as a routine Tuesday for Baker City Manager Gordon Zimmerman, but before noon his 4 1/2-year tenure, to his surprise, had ended. . . . . Tuesday's announcement shocked city officials."

He had been at one point, a few years earlier, placed on probation, but as his evaluations were continually improving, there may not have appeared to be any reason to suspect an imminent change in employment status. The article states, in contrast to specific reasons cited by some members of the current Council in Brocato's case, that "Ellingson declined to list specific reasons why the council sought to replace Zimmerman."

While the article states that Ellingson discussed the matter individually with Councilors at the time, there is no indication that anyone thought it proper to sue the Council for violating the public meeting law, as Milo Pope and others seem to think it is in this case.

Contrasting again with the Brocato case, Zimmerman, however, was gracious in accepting the request for resignation: "When the council says it's time to go, it's time to go," he said. "There comes a time when the council wants to choose their own man." (ibid)

So while the standards cited may be reasonable, it is clear that Mr. Brocato has not, in important cases, seen fit to rise to them, and neither has the City. I guess that's the way democracy works here, even when the shoe is on the other foot.

More Video and Information on Brocato Firing

Councilor Bonebrake Responds to Milo Pope
In this video, Councilor Aletha Bonebrake responds here to wild statements, threats and intimidation issued by Councilor Pope. Mr. Pope had previously gone through a long list of complaints and alleged violations of statutes related to four of our City Councilors voting to remove City Manager Brocato.

"There was no public meeting.... it doesn't matter how many statutes you cite."

"We did not vote to retain Mr. Brocato--we simply voted to accept the evaluation."

"Mr. Brocato ... is very defensive and will not really receive information nor permit people to impart information."

"Its really inappropriate to be forced by word and action to move more quickly on a topic than we are ready to do--we are after all, the policy group for the City, and policy is our job."

"Even today, as we went into Mr. Brocato's office, . . . the first thing that happened was that we were berated . . . without even finding out why we were there. This is the nature of the dysfunction of Council and City relationship."

"I find it next to impossible to do the job I was elected to do with the stonewalling that I receive in trying to simply to get information and ask questions."

Councilor Bonebrake Responds to Milo Pope

Bryan Suggests Successful Councilors "Incompetent" etc. -- Pot Calling Kettle Black?
Councilor Andrew Bryan berates Council--Appears to Violate City Ordinance 3407.

Councilor Calder Responds to Andrew Bryan
In this video, Beverly Calder reminds the Council that City Ordinance 3407 requires that Counciors treat the public and each other with respect after Andrew Bryan announces that the Council is "incompetent" and etc. She also reminds Andrew that three of the sitting Councilors have over four years under their belts.

Interesting also that Mr Bryan would use the word incompetent with reference to successful business people and a woman who is largely credited as being the driving force behind the creation of the Baker County Library, and who was its director during the time it developed into a greatly valued public institution. While not the only way to establish competence, being able to run successful businesses for several years, as well as being able to establish and run a County library, certainly shows that a person is competent enough to be a Councilor. It is also worth noting, that both Beverly Calder and Aletha Bonebrake were the top vote-getters in their respective runs for office.

Councilor Calder Responds to Andrew Bryan

No comments: