Guest Commentary: By Larry Honig - My city manger evaluation

Marco Island’s city manager, Jim Riviere, was subjected to his third evaluation in nine months at a recent City Council meeting. Each of us on the council used a different approach, with different criteria, and the result was a lot of input for the city manager but perhaps not a cohesive message.

At the end of the session, a number of citizens called us out, quite properly, and demanded a substantive process, and further requested that we ensure written annual evaluations of all city employees, including standard position descriptions against which to measure their performance. I have committed to help the city staff develop these processes, in part because of my background in human resources management, and at the proper time the City staff will present its approach to the City Council and to the citizens for input.

I provided the city manager a written evaluation, even though we new councilors have only been working with him since November, an unusually brief time for a review. (A premature evaluation is fundamentally unfair to the recipient, but welcome to politics I suppose.) The most important aspect of performance evaluation is to ask, “What are the results?” This can be answered using three standards: (1) gets the job done, (2) listens and learns, and (3) develops the organization. Here’s how I rated the City Manager on each of these.

(1) Gets the job done. On this measure, the city Mmanager deserves high marks. If we look at the spending he controls, the general fund, Jim Riviere is the first city manager in Marco Island history to have decreased spending. Here’s the record:

Bill Moss (1997-2007) spending increased from $4.6 million to $14.1 million, or 11.9 percent annually. (I excluded increases caused by absorbing departments, such as Fire Rescue.) Tony Shoemaker was on the job only four months, so I won’t include his record. Steve Thompson (May ’08 to April ’10) spending up $2.5 million, or 8.5 percent annually. Jim Riviere spending down about $800,000 through fiscal year 2012.

The city manager holds his departments to high standards. Under his leadership, there have been no spending surprises. He consistently comes in under budget. He has completed contract negotiations with the Fire Rescue union. The City’s bond rating has been increased, which will help Marco Island as we refinance our debt.

(2) Listens and learns. On this measure, the city manager is making solid progress, but it’s not his strong suit. He spends a tremendous amount of time listening to councilors. He has put all city board and committee meetings on the TV system, which also contains a running bulletin board of activities and notices. He publishes a weekly “Roundup” newsletter to keep the City Council informed of events, etc. He reaches out to other governments and agencies to share ideas and fight for our fair share of County and district revenues. And, really, he lets the City Council, and the chair of the City Council as appropriate, have center stage. He does not try to act as Mayor.

(3) Develops the organization. On this measure, the city manager has performed well, but continued improvement is needed. He has reorganized the City staff to reduce redundancies. He has upgraded many departments, most recently the Finance Department, by bringing in professional staff. He has brought in a respected Police Chief to continue the development of a professional, committed, mission-oriented Police Department. His overall approach is to encourage strong department heads, so that Marco Island is always reaching for the best talent.

Suggestions for next year. No review is complete without setting objectives for the future. I am only one of seven City Councilors, and at some point we on City Council will meet to agree on the City Manager’s objectives, but here is my list:

1. Take a tougher stand with department heads in priority-setting and Council-response. This is a reflection of the City Manager’s desire to have strong department heads sometimes they are too strong, pushing their own agendas or unresponsive to citizens’ needs, which can also be seen in their interaction with our City Council appointed boards and committees.

2. Push for and implement a robust financial software solution for management information. This has been approved by City Council in the past, but it will take the City Manager’s leadership to make it a reality (and fit it into next year’s budget). With the new Finance Director on board, it is needed now more than ever. We are controlling our finances with an antiquated and disjointed system. Without cohesive, real-time financial information, the job of maintaining financial control is even more difficult.

3. More aggressively pursue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, granted by the County, so that Marco Island can consider providing even better ambulance and rescue-related services to the citizens. The Fire Rescue Chief is working hard on this, but all of us will need to get behind it.

I’m hopeful that when we review the City Manager a year or so from now, he will have produced another year of solid progress, fiscal responsibility and more open communication.

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Comments » 9

ajm3s writes:

Mr. Honig:

I am interested to understand why number 3 is a high priority in light of number 1.

Was that not apparent by comments made by those that wish to expand the Community Center? Mr. Meyer was quite clear when he stated publicly that, "the fire dept got its rescue boat" and then went on to lament why can't the city support a community center that is used by its citizens. And I heard from council that safety is the highest priority, but no one wishes to consider the existing resources available or less costly options to securing our safety.

What I perceive is a city that is managed without any regard of resources that are provided by the county, such as a fire ALS rescue boat sitting in dock on the other side of the river on Isle of Capri or Collier county sheriff office. But the past council supported the purchase of the most expensive rescue boat in Collier County and the new council confirmed it. Now that was a shoddy analysis, given the cost other communities spend to address the SAME responsibility!!!!!!!!!!!!

Number 1, 2 and 3 priority should be financial management and software.

Your #1 and #3 priorities are extensions of director's self promotion. And honestly, some departments are better at promoting their cause with the Fire Department under Mr. Murphy the master of all. And that is what I witness. Just review the Mr. Pinter requests for capital projects vs Mr. Murphy and as of last night Mr. Milk.

If you really wish to impress the folks with your prowess and experience, you must ask yourself, why is an ambulance service run under Mr. Murphy so important? If you want to increase the cost of ambulance service then by all means get the city to provide the service. In fact, Mr. Murphy's claimed that the county would provide another EMS vehicle if the city would reopen station 51 on Elkam Circle several years ago. How is that going, the city provided the monies to restore Station 51, now is there a second County EMS vehicle? or is that now by the wayside?

I find it interesting Mr. Murphy can convince the city council to give him what he wants but NOT the county.

If you are truly a steward of efficient government operations I would widen my view, because some fire districts outside of Marco Island are consolidating while others are trying to maintain their fiefdoms. In fact, I can hear Mr. Murphy humming this modified quatrain:

Fee! Fie! Foe! Fum!
I smell the blood of a Citizen.
Be he 'live, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.

ajm3s writes:

"3. More aggressively pursue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, granted by the County, so that Marco Island can consider providing even better ambulance and rescue-related services to the citizens. The Fire Rescue Chief is working hard on this, but all of us will need to get behind it."

DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

For a brief review:

http://www.marconews.com/news/2011/no...

I will call it as I see it! This is about costly, yes costly transport services if you wish to pursue city expansion into ambulance services.

I will guarantee, yes guarantee the folks will pay more and more and more for the same level of service.

Here is an observation from an emergency care physician just a few years ago with regard to North Naples Fire Department attempting to ....

http://www.marconews.com/news/2011/ap...

And let us not forget. Did we not just witness the Fire Department convincing our elected officials both past and present council, that a $400K fire boat was a necessity!!!!

FOLKS! DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

I sense Mr. Murphy has recovered his prowess and ability to mesmerize Mr. Honig, Mr. Sacher and ......... all under the spell of safety!!!!!!!!

I guess there should not be any discussion as to the cost for service if it is safety related, because we have the best on this island, while E.Naples and Golden Gate are ......

DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! DANGER!

Your representatives are under the influence of Mr. Murphy.

marcofriend writes:

Honig's election is almost identical to another councilor elected a couple of years ago via bullet voting. Tell everyone what they want to hear and then all of a sudden he knows better than all citizens on the island. Unfortunately we have 1-1/2 more years of Mr Bullet Vote and 3-1/2 more years of Mr less than honest or transparent.

We also are stuck with a City Manager who is neither a professional at his job any more than he is a PHD. How disspointing that our new City Council chair is so naive as to think this man is an asset to our City.

WizeOlMarco writes:

Mr. Honig. Why do you say thus via a newspaper Guest Commentary and not in person at the public meeting for which you were elected a representative?

LEHonig writes:

To WizeOlMarco -- I did in fact give the city manager his review in public, at the city council meeting March 4. I made all the points covered in this article. I also presented in chart form the general fund spending comparison among the four city managers. You can review the videotape on the city's website.

To ajm3s -- In the city council meeting during which the Fire Rescue vessel was approved, I demonstrated that the new boat will cost the city approximately $5,000 per year more than the current boat, because of the high cost of maintenance for the current boat. Prior to the vote, I discussed with the county and the coast guard their response capabilities and satisfied myself that they would not be of help beyond a minimum level, and this point was covered by Chief Murphy in his presentation.

ajm3s writes:

I watched the council meeting and the estimates provided were akin to a salesman convincing me to sell my 2006 Porsche 911 for a new Ferrari on a maintenance cost basis.

I find the use of "minimum level" to describe response capabilities of the Coast Guard and county, is quite nuanced.

If you haven't read the most recent rescue and search associated with water, they were successfully performed by the Coast Guard Axillary and Collier County. Even the most recent search of a victim that was found in the canal, was a county helicopter. Quite impressive for providing a "minimal level" of service.

And the most obscene, please tell me why some cities share resources ie. Ft. Myeers, Estero, Bonita Springs for water rescue operations, yet an ALS rescue boat provide by the county at the Isles of Capris is considered minimal. And if I recall the public discussion the new $400K boat will be housed on a trailer on San Marco Blvd.

The amount of monies Marco Island is spending on equipment for water rescue operations exceeds similar communities by a factor of 2-4X. And in other communities I have the pleasure of spending a fair amount of time, with commercial cruise water traffic and vacationers, i.e Newport RI, the disparity is overwhelming. The goal in that city is quick response time with inflatables and jet skis. And RI with Narragansett Bay is quite a recreational gem, and all the municipalities that line the bay, NONE has a rescue boat that even approaches the cost of $400K, even considering commercial fishing and shelling operations. The Coast Guard and state provide the equipment and resources that match the specifications Marco Island felt was "needed" for water rescue. If you believe in efficient government operations, then you would expect "minimum levels" at the local level supported by county and state with more sophisticated and larger capabilities.

And for Mr. Murphy to categorize the Coast Guard's primary responsibility to Homeland Security is quite a distortion of the CG's mission statement. Simply because the Coast Guard is now found in the organizational chart of Homeland Security did NOT change the mission of the Coast Guard as it applies to rescue operaitons, it merely changed the reporting structure.

And for a final thumbnail sketch, I expect local municipalities to provide "minimal level" of services that are supplemented and backed up by county and state agencies with more sophisticated and far ranging equipment.

In your world the county helicopter that recently found the body of a woman in the canal was minimal level.

Sorry, I disagree with your comments on a host of fronts.

ajm3s writes:

in response to ajm3s:

I watched the council meeting and the estimates provided were akin to a salesman convincing me to sell my 2006 Porsche 911 for a new Ferrari on a maintenance cost basis.

I find the use of "minimum level" to describe response capabilities of the Coast Guard and county, is quite nuanced.

If you haven't read the most recent rescue and search associated with water, they were successfully performed by the Coast Guard Axillary and Collier County. Even the most recent search of a victim that was found in the canal, was a county helicopter. Quite impressive for providing a "minimal level" of service.

And the most obscene, please tell me why some cities share resources ie. Ft. Myeers, Estero, Bonita Springs for water rescue operations, yet an ALS rescue boat provide by the county at the Isles of Capris is considered minimal. And if I recall the public discussion the new $400K boat will be housed on a trailer on San Marco Blvd.

The amount of monies Marco Island is spending on equipment for water rescue operations exceeds similar communities by a factor of 2-4X. And in other communities I have the pleasure of spending a fair amount of time, with commercial cruise water traffic and vacationers, i.e Newport RI, the disparity is overwhelming. The goal in that city is quick response time with inflatables and jet skis. And RI with Narragansett Bay is quite a recreational gem, and all the municipalities that line the bay, NONE has a rescue boat that even approaches the cost of $400K, even considering commercial fishing and shelling operations. The Coast Guard and state provide the equipment and resources that match the specifications Marco Island felt was "needed" for water rescue. If you believe in efficient government operations, then you would expect "minimum levels" at the local level supported by county and state with more sophisticated and larger capabilities.

And for Mr. Murphy to categorize the Coast Guard's primary responsibility to Homeland Security is quite a distortion of the CG's mission statement. Simply because the Coast Guard is now found in the organizational chart of Homeland Security did NOT change the mission of the Coast Guard as it applies to rescue operaitons, it merely changed the reporting structure.

And for a final thumbnail sketch, I expect local municipalities to provide "minimal level" of services that are supplemented and backed up by county and state agencies with more sophisticated and far ranging equipment.

In your world the county helicopter that recently found the body of a woman in the canal was minimal level.

Sorry, I disagree with your comments on a host of fronts.

Correction:

Providence, RI has rescue/fire boats that exceed the cost of $400k and in fact they have several that were purchased under the new Homeland Security measures enacted by law to protect and meet the requirements to address traffic associated with container/cargo port similar to nearby Boston and New York City.

naples_rocket writes:

in response to marcofriend:

Honig's election is almost identical to another councilor elected a couple of years ago via bullet voting. Tell everyone what they want to hear and then all of a sudden he knows better than all citizens on the island. Unfortunately we have 1-1/2 more years of Mr Bullet Vote and 3-1/2 more years of Mr less than honest or transparent.

We also are stuck with a City Manager who is neither a professional at his job any more than he is a PHD. How disspointing that our new City Council chair is so naive as to think this man is an asset to our City.

why have a professional City Manager when you can have a puppet?

Brisla writes:

This story has been online for a week now, and, apparently, nobody at this fine news organization has noticed that "manager" is spelled incorrectly in the headline.

Or maybe the city has an official "manger."

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