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New Utilities Director could cost Palo Alto lots of $$$$s

Original post made by Diana Diamond, Palo Alto Online blogger, on Jun 20, 2006

Not only has it taken more than six months for the city to begin its search for a new Utilities Director for Palo Alto, but City Manager Frank Benest already has warned the City Council that the new hire is going to be an expensive proposition for the city.

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Comments (8)

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Posted by Suckers
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2006 at 11:40 am

We are suckers... dont you love it...

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Posted by Mark
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 27, 2006 at 9:06 am

These salaries are well within the range when compared to other cities like Palo Alto. Maybe you should do some research on a subject before using the comments that "we are suckers".

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Posted by Not worth the money
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2006 at 9:57 am

They all are getting paid way too much money for the work they do. Having lived in PA for 40+ years; all I've seen is that the services that we are provided are fewer, more expensive and lower quality.

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Posted by cgilbert
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2006 at 3:51 pm

The people at the top just keep getting more and more. Don't you just love it?! At the same time as the worker bees get cut or held at small increases. It ought to be an exciting plum job to come into Palo Alto and manage Utilities. Civil service jobs were traditionally paid less than private sector and in return had security and pensions. It's time for either a return to this or the big bucks and drop the security and pensions! Nobody else gets all 3!

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Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 6, 2006 at 4:54 pm

I believe the utility department should be split - one half, directed by a Professional Engineer registered in the State of Califonia as a Civil, Electrical or Mechanical Engineer, who would be responsible for the operation and planning of all units of the Utility Department. The other part, headed by a drama major or an acupuncturist, would be responsible for all the hamster wheel power projects and all the other feel good, accomplish nothing projects that Ulrich spent all his time on.

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Posted by Smokey Wallace
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 28, 2006 at 9:25 pm


I have enjoyed you insightful comments on the utilities department fiasco. For the record, I have applied for the position of Director of Utilities and am now mired in the process! I am long time PA resident that seriously cares about our city. For te record, I am a very experienced high tech senior manager that has focused on changing organizational culture and operation. Frankly, I don't think I have a chance of being hired for this position, but I know I could do an outstanding job of turning this organization around. Any help or insight you might provide would be greatly appreciated.

Smokey Wallace...

Like this comment
Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2006 at 10:06 pm

Smokey [no relation] you may be too late,. The city is considering monday a proposal to turn the utility department even more into a social engineering project, just incedentally delivering electricity and gas, as long as it is green.

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Posted by Randal
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2006 at 11:03 am

I’ve been loosely following the utilities investigation and it seems to me that something is missing, what about the other city departments? It’s been my experience that if one department in a city has a problem then it’s not much of a stretch to have at least one more department have the same types of problems. I haven’t seen any indication that other departments were looked at. Also what about the role of the “watch dog” departments, i.e. the city auditor, Personnel/Human Resources, the legal department and the executive branch?

It appears to me that the PA city auditor hasn’t done more than a cursory review of any of the “Operating” departments in several years. If there have been audits, what do they show? Why didn’t the audits catch the so called problems?

My sources tell me that the PA HR department is understaffed, slow to respond and afraid to make decisions and take action. I have been told horror stories about supervisors trying to discipline employees. All PA discipline is supposed to be cleared by HR and the legal dept. I have heard that it will take anywhere from several weeks to several months for HR to act and then only after the personnel lawyer makes sure she’s comfortable. Most times the discipline recommended by the supervisor or manager is either reduced or over ruled. How can discipline be effective if it takes months to deliver and how can any supervisor do a good job when they are not supported by city hall? It is easy to see how employees could get the idea they are immune to repercussions.

I have also heard that the attorney responsible for employee and labor issues is gun shy about making personnel recommendations and has not supported most of the recommendations for discipline and corrective action. What role did this play in employee attitudes that they can get away with anything?

What about the executive branch, the City Manager and Assistant City Manager. Everything I’ve seen in the news indicates that Frank Benest is at best an ineffective leader and absentee manager and at worst knew about the utility leadership problem and didn’t deal with it. All indications are that Ms. Harrison the Assistant City Manager, has done a good job with the investigations but I recently heard that Mike Miller the former senior Public Works employee brought in to investigate things is a close personal friend of Ms. Harrison and may have a big interest in deflecting any dirt away from Public Works. I wonder how much he was paid to only look at one department and why did it take so long? Something to ponder???

What about those guys, Ulrich and Bradshaw, Scapegoats? Possibly bought off with retirement to keep the investigation from spreading? Is this a cover up for deeper problems within the city structure? I wonder?

Lots of unanswered questions. Guess we’ll never really know the whole story but I sure don’t trust “City Hall”.

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