by: Diane Benjamin
Mayor Renner summarized the Council comments concerning David Hales, and he added a few of his own. These comments were prior to the Hales evaluation which resulted in Hales receiving a 3% raise. The Council vote was 7-2 for increasing Hales’ salary. Hales is now paid $176,439, not including substantial benefits and car allowance.
This email was received under the Freedom of Information Act. See this previous post: https://blnnews.com/2014/06/13/secret-council-members-evaluate-david-hales/
From: Tari Renner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sun, Dec 15, 2013 at 3:29 PM
Subject: David Hales Evaluation – Council Summary and Mayor’s Evaluation
To: City Council and Mayor <email@example.com>, “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
As promised, I’m attaching my summary of the written comments/discussion and the mayor’s evaluation for our executive session tomorrow. Consider this to be a draft. If I’ve made errors, I’m more than happy to correct
City Manager David Hales
Evaluation – December 2013
Council members were asked to respond to the following questions:
1) What do you consider the city manager’s greatest strengths and accomplishments over the last year?
2) How could the city manager have improved on his performance over the last year? (Please be as specific as possible)
3) What areas would you like to see the city manager improve upon in the upcoming year?
The following is a synthesis of the (sometimes diverse) written responses as well as the council discussion on December 9:
Mr. Hales’ handling of the city’s finances is consistently (but not unanimously) listed as one of his greatest strengths. Another often mentioned strength is his ability to ‘keep many balls in the air,’ to ‘get things done’ and ‘solve problems.’ Other common themes were David Hales “great technical knowledge,’ ‘strong 360 view of the of the work of the city,’ ‘work ethic’ and ‘high ethical standards.’ Some responses were quite detailed about his accomplishments while others were rather general. His work on the FY 2014 Action Plan was often cited by council members as part of his accomplishments – specifically the progress on the Storm water and Sanitary Sewer Master plans, the Downtown Master plan and the Downtown Nightlife Study. Further, his handling of the transition to a new Mayor and Council after the April elections was generally indicated as a strength/accomplishment. Mr. Hales’ personnel actions and proposals were reported as strengths – hiring of a new police chief, handling of other difficult personnel situations and the development of a blueprint for culture change as we move forward.
One of the most consistent responses for improvement in the city manager’s performance is the need to delegate more responsibilities to others (summarized by one respondent as being “too engaged in the minutiae of city work”). Another consistent concern is for Mr. Hales to be more responsive to the requests of alderman. Specifically, there was a desire for more nuanced policy options/data. The solid waste proposal was repeatedly cited as an example of that need so that aldermen didn’t feel boxed in or limited in their policy choices. One respondent did, however, comment that we need “less analysis: more action.” A final consistent theme was the need to improve on following procedures such as the Open Meetings Act (notices, executive session minutes etc.) and making the city’s website “easier to access and navigate.” The Clerk’s office was also cited as needing improvement in this process.
Personnel issues seem to be one of the top concerns for the upcoming year. Many aldermen seemed to look forward to progress as part of “culture change” and the development of a new “Senior Management Team.” The need for delegation appeared in this question as well as in #2 above. Many responses expressed concern over employee morale and a desire for improvement in the coming year. There were some concerns expressed for better information and as one respondent put it “a turnaround in the way data is shared.”
Mayor’s Synthesis/ Summary
David Hales is completing his fifth year as city manager. He is extremely hardworking and has considerable knowledge and expertise in local government issues. As with any good city manager, he has the ability to juggle many tasks and get results. In the previous year he has completed many items in the FY 2014 Action Plan (a document that is used in the city as a type of policy agenda). David faced a variety of difficult personnel matters – hiring a new police chief and negotiating the departure of the city attorney to name a few. But his greatest challenge over the past year, I suspect, was to adapt to the election of new council members and a new mayor with a very different style and priorities than the previous incumbent. While there may have been a few bumps along the way in the first few months (some of them the fault of the Mayor), Mr. Hales has been successful in making the transition. In responding to the new mayor’s agenda, he has, for example, developed a “culture change” policy proposal stressing effectiveness and responsiveness to citizens that received near unanimous support from the city council. Further, Mr. Hales has attended a majority of the new mayor’s open houses, town hall meetings and has begun to meet regularly with groups that felt disenfranchised in the past – including the Building Trades and Bloomington/Normal Association of Realtors. He fast tracked the process of providing up to date evaluations of our city’s non-union employees. On Downtown issues, he worked with external consultants to revise the Downtown plan, provided invaluable suggestions for moving forward on the Route 66 Visitor’s Center, offered many creative ideas for developing the area South of the Library and recommended external legal counsel for dealing with a more aggressive enforcement and rewriting of our liquor ordinances. Some areas that he should strive to improve upon in the future include delegating more responsibility to department heads and other members of the management team, being more attentive to procedural matters and open government (including the Open Meetings Act and improving our city’s website and responsiveness in the Clerk’s Office) and providing the council with more nuanced policy options and more complete data to make major decisions. As Mayor, it is also my responsibility to work with David to help ensure we make progress in these areas and to address the serious morale problem among our city employees. I suspect that the concern about delegating more authority to others may take care of itself as the new “culture change” policies are implemented. The reorganization component of our “culture change” may also help us make progress in addressing procedural open government issues with the website and Clerk’s Office.