More MOO-ving Forward

September 11, 2008

We previously posted that Susan George’s Town Manager Report to the July 22nd COWncil meeting stated that Susan is in discussion with a retired Planning Director who will serve as Interim Director while the recruitment for Hope’s replacement goes on. At that time, she was “working out the details” but we certainly haven’t heard anything more about this person yet!

Susan also reported that she has personally been “trying to fill in the gaps since the Planning Director position became vacant.” She has been “providing support and direction, reviewing all ASRB and Planning Commission reports, and meeting with residents and their professionals to work issues out.” Hmmm, our Town Manager is very hard-working! She should be with a pay increase of $185,000! Yes, that’s right $185,000 plus a bonus, more on this later.

The last piece of information from the July 22nd meeting was in Item 11, the revision of the Code of Conduct – an interesting doCOWment. But for our purposes now, we only have one thing to point out. Despite the cow-and-pony show, about why the Town no longer requires an “Assistant Town Manager / Director of Community Design and Development” – and instead we will have the Town Manager, a Director of Planning and Building, and an Assistant to the Town Manager this revision still includes the position of Assistant Town Manager in its ‘Appendix of Designated Positions.’ These positions are determined to be subject to State Conflict of Interest rules and require the filing of Conflict of Interest declarations. However, this resolution notes that the disclosure categories have been revised to reflect the “new” position of Assistant Town Manager (along with Deputy Town Engineer and Senior Planner, and to delete the Development Services Engineer)! Apparently, even though we don’t need an Assistant Town Manager, we need to include it in our Conflict of Interest Code? Kevin Bryant’s prospects look brighter every day! We do hope history will not repeat itself in the future!

We don’t have high hopes that the COWncil will learn from their – and the Town Manager’s – mistakes, though. The lack of discussion of important decisions such as the changing the job classification and the authorization of a search for a replacement Director of Planning on the July 22nd agenda, despite the significant organizational changes and the obviously strained circumstances of Hope’s departure, is very worrisome. The COWncil didn’t seem to think it was necessary to discuss what they hoped to see in the Director of Planning or to provide any further direction to Susan George in terms of a more inclusive recruitment process. The replacement of a vital public official, whose whims and agendas can literally cost citizens tens of thousands of dollars, should merit more COWncil consideration and not just deference to Susan. After all Susan hired and defended Hope.

We hope that the COWncil expressed such concern in private, at least – but then, of course, that leaves us wondering just what directions they might have provided. While the circumstances of Hope’s leaving are shrouded in impenetrable secrecy, the plans for her replacement should NOT be. After all Hope’s departure resulted in a settlement agreement that cost the Town significant money. Which can only mean that someone, at least allegedly, made a significant mistake in dealing with Hope.

The eerie silence and lack of public dialogue with and accountability to the citizens of our Town needs to end. Both the COWncil and the Town Manager need to take significant steps towards openness and good government in order to restore the trust lost from years of unregulated mayhem in the Planning Director’s office. As this process to find a new Director of Planning and Building to replace Hope goes forward, there should be a new, transparent, and fair reshuffling of the order here in Woodside. We echo the sentiment that a member of the public posted here on our website: “Better demand that council have an appointed citizen interview committee, particularly including practicing architects, resident and non resident, so we can get a true professional, ethical planning director.”

Sounds good to us. Mayor Romines? Susan George?

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