Sunday, November 28, 2004

Root Cause Analysis?


Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee Posted by Hello

COUNCILMEMBER WENDY GREUEL, CHAIR (greuel@council.lacity.org)
COUNCILMEMBER JACK WEISS (weiss@council.lacity.org)
COUNCILMEMBER JANICE HAHN (hahn@council.lacity.org)
LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT ILENE SHAPIRO (ishapiro@clerk.lacity.org)
Room 1060, City Hall
200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
November 27, 2004

Re: AUDITS AND GOVERNMENTAL EFFICIENCY COMMITTEE
Special Meeting, 10:00 a.m., Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Honorable Council Members:

No amount of rules and enforcement can be as effective in changing a culture as having leadership that is relentless in its pursuit of the greater long-term public good. The methods used by the DWP, Airports, and Harbor departments should be as straight-forward as the services themselves. The methods should be simple, consistent, predictable, and easily understood throughout the organization. They are not. This is a management problem and should not be blamed on individuals. These systemic problems are management's responsibility. Without doubt, the duplicitous nature of management’s influence on the methods of doing business has degraded the products and services provided, as well as creating personnel issues within these departments.

My letter published in the August 13, 2004 issue of LA Weekly entitled "Whistleblowing," continues to express my concerns:

"Without exposure and widespread public support, the culture at the LADWP will not change. Sure, laws protect individual employees, but individuals do not stand a chance against the juggernaut of attorney-trained bureaucrats, unlimited time and access to the City Attorney’s Office, PR spin masters, contracted legal services, fact-finding committees, and union stalwarts — all accomplished defenders of the status quo. Consequently, employees are highly motivated to compromise their responsibility to act in the public’s best interest to avoid repercussion and loss of promotional opportunity."

Addressing waste, fraud, and abuse looks like a good start. But these are merely symptoms and do not address the fundamental issue, which is mismanagement. The mismanagement is due to the influence of outside interests and secret agendas which overshadows delivering the services in a manner consistent with the public’s best interests.

Bogus internal investigations and the use of rubber-stamp committees to reframe the spin on management’s methods are savvy political tools to maintain the status quo and to protect incumbents steeped in cronyism. The leaders at the DWP are purported experienced professionals; many of them, such as Thomas Hokinson and Hal D. Lindsey, are accomplished attorneys. To suggest retraining as a remedy to mismanagement is a diversion. Management knows the laws, and they know their responsibilities. They have chosen to use their high-level positions, talents and influence to skirt them. Their leadership has reflected negatively in the merit systems established, on the culture within the department, and on the actions of some 8,000 employees preoccupied with intimidation and retaliation for whistle-blowing.

Further, the Commerce, Energy and Natural Resources Committee, made up of Tony Cardenas, Janice Hahn , and Cindy Miscikowski, made it very clear to acting General Manager Henry Martinez that management behavior reflected poorly on and threatened the integrity of the Department, its employees, and the entire city.

These managers need to be held accountable. Not to take definitive action ensnares this committee in the same mire of complacency that surrounds the offices of the City Controller and the City Attorney.

Many employees have found it necessary to bring their first-hand experiences to the attention of boards and committees outside the influence of DWP management. This, too, is symptomatic of the same problem. The fact that the union is not representing these individuals and that employees are not using traditional in-house resolution avenues is alarming. It means that the union has found it can better influence the terms and conditions of labor through appointments and political and managerial maneuvering than through the traditional representation of employees. The employees have realized that in-house resolution processes are no longer effective.

Union influence on boards and in management can be seen in the union's recent entry and control of safety administration, retirement system administration, engineers and architects, exempt employees, and healthcare, etc. In each of these areas, ask, "Can the union be held accountable for a failed or substandard performance?" The resounding answer is "no." Legitimate management should know that accountability for these areas cannot be transferred. Under the current law, if an employee is hurt or killed on the job, management is culpable. Consequently, in each of these instances, management has given the union a risk-free benefit.

Career employees that have voiced their concerns at various city boards and council meetings have found themselves facing the Civil Service Commission and/or the Employee Relations Board. These management-orchestrated personnel actions illustrate dysfunctional management behavior, and intimidation of the workforce and result in degraded services and the waste of city time, resources, and talent.

The nexus of management methods, personnel actions, and union influence falls clearly under management control. Therefore, management is solely responsible and should be held accountable.

I am a 20-year career DWP employee familiar with the culture, politics, and players; a professor of management at CSULA; and a motivated change agent. I have a vested interest in seeking long-lasting reform and improvement. I have plenty to contribute to this committee and to the city of Los Angeles, and I have a vision for a successful reformation plan. If you are interested in system and process improvement, I would welcome the opportunity to participate in your efforts.

I am unable to attend this particular meeting as it is in conflict with a pending case of alleged management-orchestrated retaliation being heard at the Employee Relations Board. However, I would be extremely happy to meet with you at your convenience.

Please let me know how I can best participate. I would like to post your reply at http://www.civilactionpress.blogspot.com/. I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,


Daniel N. Shrader, M.B.A.

Attachment:
Shrader, Daniel N. August 13, 2004. Letters: WHISTLEBLOWING. LA Weekly. http://www.laweekly.com/ink/04/38/letters.php.


WHISTLEBLOWING
Jeffrey Anderson’s article "The Black Avenger" [July 23–29] cites the City Attorney’s Office’s use of secret settlements and confidentiality clauses to hide systemic discrimination, harassment and retaliation as an alternative to management reform at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). LADWP Assistant General Manager Thomas Hokinson was unable to recall burying mismanagement allegations while he was chief assistant city attorney — no surprise considering workplace bullying has gotten sophisticated and management retaliation is the leading claim at the utility.
The LADWP plays musical chairs to mask these increasing claims. Although responsibility over Human Resources and Labor Relations passed from Raman Raj to Thomas Hokinson, and then to Hal D. Lindsey (retired from Edison) — all of whom were eventually promoted to assistant general managers — tactics to thwart employee claims remain paramount.
Without exposure and widespread public support, the culture at the LADWP will not change. Sure, laws protect individual employees, but individuals do not stand a chance against the juggernaut of attorney-trained bureaucrats, unlimited time and access to the City Attorney’s Office, PR spin masters, contracted legal services, fact-finding committees, and union stalwarts — all accomplished defenders of the status quo. Consequently, employees are highly motivated to compromise their responsibility to act in the public’s best interest to avoid repercussion and loss of promotional opportunity.
Since 1981, every grievance, arbitration, lawsuit and contract for legal services, including every one of the high-dollar settlements covered in "The Black Avenger," has crossed the Board of Water and Power Commissioners for approval. The Board, having recently mandated "Mutual Respect" and "Workplace Violence" seminars for each employee, cannot claim to be unaware of the rift between enlisted cronies and career civil servants. The real question is: Did they turn a blind eye to it or did they mandate these seminars in an effort to re-frame executive-orchestrated retaliation and bullying as a supervisory issue?
Charter reform and manipulation of civil-service classification and selection processes have exacerbated the problem by increasing the latitude and number of non-civil-service employees serving at the pleasure of management and beholden to their closely held personal and political agendas.
Is the situation out of control? Civil service is characterized by low turnover designed to prevent spoils-system graft and corruption. A monopoly, too, is characterized by low turnover. The LADWP is both a civil-service organization and a monopoly. But the high turnover at the management level indicates that the organizational focus has shifted from public service to opportunists jockeying for personal power. Strife in the workplace, reduced output and higher costs are a result of a preoccupied, self-serving leadership.
By their rhetoric, city administrators lay blame on contractors and understudies. City leaders and their blindly following minions seem to have forgotten that they are charged with a higher standard of behavior, embodied in the city oath, to provide and ensure continuous, ethical, uncompromised, cost-effective service to the citizens of Los Angeles. For their public service, Angelinos entrust them with uncompromised authority, good salaries, benefits and civic honors.
There is a consequence to violating and spinning away the public trust. Therein lies the crux of the problem. The regulatory agencies of this administration — the Board, Controller’s Office, Ethics Commission, Civil Service Commission, City Attorney’s Office and Mayor’s Office — continue to support the status quo, a derelict and dysfunctional culture. Consequently, these internal policing agencies must be the first priority for reform.
I hope that the recent exposure and awareness of widespread city mismanagement, specifically at the LADWP, will result in a recall of the public’s trust.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If your correspondence requires immediate attention, please do not hesitate to contact my City Hall office at 213-473-7002. Otherwise, either my staff or I will respond to you promptly.

Thank you again for contacting my office.

Sincerely,

WENDY GREUEL
Councilmember, 2nd District

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This email acknowledges the receipt of your email to Councilmember Jack Weiss. Councilmember Weiss and his staff recognize the value and importance of receiving input from the people he represents, and we appreciate your taking the time to email.

If you reside in the 5th Council district, please include your name and address with any communication. You may also wish to visit Councilmember Weiss' web site at http://www.lacity.org/council/cd5/ to learn more about local issues and services which are provided to City residents.

10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of you. That is such a well written letter to Wendy, Jack, Janice and Ilene. The path to the root cause and who should be held accountable is bulls-eye perfect. I really enjoyed your offer to contribute to the process of cleaning up the mess. I firmly believe they won't accept your offer, but it was an outstanding gesture on your part.

OH WHAT TANGLED WEBS WE WEAVE. Had they (DWP upper echelon) had the wisdom to correct what at one time were a few minor injustices and keep things on what appeared to be an even keel, they might have been able to continue the rape and debauchery for many more years to come. Once they gained the feeling of invincibility, they quickly became the proverbial bull in the china shop and trampled anything and everything that dared to approach them. They've left a wide swath of slobber, shit and broken glass (careers) while the clattering and damage continues to this moment.

They seem to have abandoned the stealth and cunning that took them to power in favor of brute strength and openly forcing people to comply with their wishes. Well, just like that bull in the china shop, someday enough of the right people will get together, capture that bull and take that bull to the slaughter house. That my friend, is getting closer hour by hour as this saga continues.

Those rough and tumble tactics worked for their predecessors, but that was in the past, now they are dealing with an era of better educated employees and with employees that have the guts to risk their careers and will take the time and effort required to publicly show where DWP's biggest rats lurk in the shadows. The ship is taking on water fast and the rats are looking for ways to get off to avoid receiving the blame for what happened on their watch.

Some day we'll all be enjoying "Hahnburgers" instead of hamburgers. I love a good BBQ. Keep stoaking the fire Danny, the cook-out is getting much closer.

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me know what the response is to your excellent letter and offer to help get DWP back on track.

10:13 PM  
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