Town MOO-ving Forward

August 20, 2008

We’ve been trying to get some perspective on the whole Hope Sullivan “resignation” MOO-haha. Since the Town has not been very forthcoming, we have tried to piece it together. The choice of new Planning Director is critical. To get it right, the COWncil should involve the COWmunity in the process and arrive at a concensus about the criteria and qualities our new Director should have.

So just what does the process going forward seem to be? The very short July 22nd meeting held some clues. As we posted in our Roundup, the only mention of Hope was a very short and bland announcement by the Mayor that she had “resigned”. The closed session report shows a settlement agreement under which Hope was paid to resign to avoid litigation. The rest of the COWncil’s public response to this crisis in Town leadership was buried in two consent calendar items, the Town Manager’s Report, and the barely-discussed revision of the Town Conflict of Interest Code.

The first, item 4, was a resolution to amend the Town salary schedule and classification plan. It mentions the “undoing” of the March 2007 reorganization that gave Hope so much power over so many aspects of building in the Town – the reclassification of the position of Director of Planning and Building to “Assistant Town Manager / Director of Community Design and Development.” Those changes, to give such power to an employee, surely were supported by Town Manager Susan George – otherwise it would have come as a tremendous slap in the face to her. Given the vast power she wields in Woodside, obviously this is not the case.

Clearly, irrespective of the secret reason for Hope’s departure, Item 4 provides cover for these changes by stating, “the recent modification of the Town’s organizational structure shifted the responsibility for the engineering and geologic aspects of the development review process to the Town Engineer,” without discussing why those changes were made.

The resolution states that this powerful position was being adjusted because “Further, the change in the title back to Director of Planning and Building should facilitate the recruitment process, as it is more readily understood what the responsibilities of the incumbent of this position include.” Perhaps it’s a sign of something, if professionals in the field wouldn’t know what the heck a “Assistant Town Manager / Director of Community Design and Development” does! It goes on to recommend that the COWncil approve modifying the Assistant Town Manager job back to the previous title and responsibilities of Director of Planning and Building. This item was approved without discussion as Consent Calendar item.

So, while we are glad that the overblown position Hope formerly occupied is being eliminated, trimmed down to something more reasonable and time-tested, we’re still concerned. We’re concerned that there seems to be no sign of pausing to figure out just how it went wrong, how to avoid such management screw-ups in the future, and perhaps, who to hold to account for creating such a lofty and unwieldy job. Instead, continuing the pattern we’ve seen in Hope’s departure- process , there seems to be an attempt to sweep it all under the rug. Moo-reover, instead of outlining a process, with public input, on criteria for the new Planning Director or community involvement in the selection process, the COWncil left for seven weeks of vacation.

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