Three Council Members
Mug Alan Rodbell.
For the past week, Dan Worth has been testing the waters. The “acting” city manager has been wondering out loud about the strength of the support he would receive to become the “permanent” city manager.
But wait, you say … I thought Worth was appointed interim city manager because he agreed that he wouldn’t pursue the position on a permanent basis. You’re right. However, buried in the fine print of Worth’s agreement is a caveat. Yes, a political loophole. The former executive director of the city’s Public Works Department only agreed not to “actively” seek the plum charter officer position.
So what if there was a not-so spontaneous groundswell of unsolicited support at City Hall to appoint Dan Worth as our next city manager for real?
It could happen.
But after Worth’s performance, or lack thereof, at Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting, his chances of becoming the permanent city manager took several steps backward. Worth sat by silently and witnessed Police Chief Alan Rodbell being roasted alive by three members of the council who were on a political head-hunting expedition.
How ironic. Just 24 hours before the trio politically eviscerated Chief Rodbell, the city’s Human Relations Commission held an event called “A Community Conversation on Civility.” It featured opening remarks about the value of civil dialog from Mayor Lane, who, the next night, badgered the Police Chief and challenged his professional credibility.
Chief Rodbell was asked to explain to the council why the Police Department is running over budget for the first three months of the fiscal year – which is in the neighborhood of $500,000. There are several factors that contribute to the overrun. The major issues are the shortage of personnel, particularly in the 9-1-1 dispatch center, an increase in the prisoner processing rate and several investigations that have employed expensive wire taps.
Chief Rodbell was given little chance to explain the issues, because the situation quickly turned into an interrogation by three hostile council members. It became apparent that Mayor Lane and councilpersons Ron McCullagh and Lisa Borowsky weren’t as interested in listening to the Police Chief as they were in lecturing him on how to mange the Police Department.
For 58 minutes the three took turns bullying Chief Rodbell. McCullagh engaged in a game of gotcha and proved that even after eight years on the council, he still doesn’t understand much about Public Safety operations. Besides turning fire-engine red, Lane’s nostrils actually flared in anger as he continued to display his long-standing contempt for how the Police Department is being managed. And Borowsky showed, once again, that she is unable to engage in a discussion with grown-ups – especially if the conversation is about law enforcement.
The three should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for the number of low blows they landed against Chief Rodbell, arguably the most well-respected department director who works for the city.
How bad did it get?
“I feel like I’m watching a public flogging,” said Councilwoman Linda Milhaven. “Chief, you’ve been disrespected, and I apologize.” Councilwoman Suzanne Klapp agreed.
But leave it to Councilman Bob Littlefield, who said the discussion had “taken an unsavory turn,” to drive the point home: “We’re asking the wrong person (police chief) about this issue. It’s the city manager’s budget. What’s he going to do?”
Wannabe permanent City Manager Dan Worth had no comment. He didn’t bat an eye … or go to bat for the Police Chief, even though he had numerous opportunities to intervene. Instead, Worth sunk into a deep trance and left Chief Rodbell to twist slowly for almost 60 minutes.
For those of us who follow our city government, we expect to witness a fair share of boneheaded behavior. But at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting things hit rock bottom when three council members mugged our city’s top cop … and the acting city manger acted like it didn’t matter.
To Be Continued