On being a team player

As if in answer to his own question ("Council hegemony" what are you talking about?), this week Councilmember Cam Hill was quoted in the Daily Tarheel insinuating that his colleague Laurin Easthom is not a "team player" because she is often on the losing end of 8-1 votes.

I will chalk up the rude tone of his comments to the DTH's patented 18-year-old filter (in which almost every direct quotation in the paper sounds as if it came out of the mouth of a college student) and instead address the substance. Ever since I have been on the Chapel Hill Planning Board, I have been on the losing end of many of the split votes we've had - usually 8-2 or often 9-1. And yet I don't believe a single member of the Board thinks I'm not working with them toward the many goals we share. In fact, my colleagues unanimously elected me as their chair last year!

Any of them would tell you that when I vote against the majority, it is always on a matter of principle that is very important to me, and that I never object in a way that obstructs the work of the board as a whole. I think Laurin has done the same thing. She has raised many important questions, and has not received adequate answers.

What I am surprised at is that there aren't more Council members raising questions. For example... why did the tech Board and Horace Williams Committee have to be shut down instead of reconfigured... why are we spending more on the new manager's transition than we spent on the entire hiring process... why don't we have a committee to consider a municipal wifi network... and many others including why does it appear that so many critical issues are being decided outside of the public eye?

Seeing as how Laurin was the top vote getter in the 2005 election, I think it's unwise of the Council to brush off her concerns as just so much neophyte worrying. I'm glad she understands that public service about more than just winning. So if he's not playing with Laurin, just who's team is Cam on?

Issues: 

Total votes: 389

Comments

Being new to the council process (been in person or watched many of sessions this year) I have to say that I wonder at what Cam Hill's role is on the council. While most council members have asked thoughtful questions, I have never heard Cam Hill speak. In fact, he hardly ever seems to be paying attention. Perhaps he is the Clarence Thomas of the council, lacking questions or public comment, but with a sharp intellect (even if his opinions are not shared by most of us here, Thomas that is).

This takes me back to what I said about Robin Cutson some time ago, that you might not agree with her on every position, but you will know where she stands and you can trust she will be a strong advocate for her beliefs. I believe the same could be said of Laurin.

R&R:

I believe you are both being provocative, without really having the goods to back it up.

There's a fine line between a strong consensus-building dynamic, and an atmosphere where disagreement is not welcome.

Ruby, it is the Daily Tar Heel (thus DTH), not "Tarheel".
-James
PS - What's your problem with being a team player? :) Groupthink is good on this council.

I think Cam Hill is a good Councilmember. It is true that he does not talk as much as others, but that is because he only speaks when he really has something to say. I much prefer that to someone who talks at length and adds little of substance to the discussion (not saying anyone on this Council does that.)

He does talk a lot at the LAC meetings for Carolina North because that's an issue he is particularly interested in (quoted widely in both papers this morning.) And I'm glad he does.

He also has been one of the strongest leaders on downtown issues on the Council and initiated the Downtown Parking Committee, which will start meeting soon and hopefully make some progress on probably the town's most grumbled about issue.

I like Laurin a lot and certainly think she has her place on the Council too. But many people have stepped up to praise her here in the last few months so I feel the need to defend Cam.

James,

Thank you.

I think Ruby is right to chalk up the tone to the DTH. That's just something that happens with newspapers.

Given that, I dont see how what Cam said is anything different than what Laurin said. Laurin said she wasn't voted in to rubber stamp items, Cam said her votes are symbolic--to me, that's the same thing. I could just as easily swap the quotes: have Cam say that she doesnt rubber stamp items and have Laurin say that she doesnt vote with the group just to be a team player.

Without passing judgment, there is some part of politics where the theory is that if you're going to have the lone losing vote, you might as well go along with the crowd to promote harmony. It seems that both Cam and Laurin recognize that Laurin does not subscribe to that point of view.

I cannot imagine an elected body that represents all of the people in Chapel Hill would remain unanimous on every decision. The beauty of democracy is that we can speak our minds. Since we aren't all the same, differing opinions result. And I think it very important that the public gets to hear differing opinions on issues before our council---to watch and listen to the process in which town business is conducted.

It's amazing to me that because a view is shared differently than the rest of the council, the person is considered "not a team player." So I guess I would be a team player if I remained quiet and just voted the way everyone else does, whether I thought it right or not. I don't believe that I was elected to council to just fill a seat and make the rest of the council happy all of the time. I actually agree with the council a majority of the time, but those differences are the ones that make the news.

I like Cam. He is funny and smart, and I know that because I spend hours sitting next to him on the council. I don't care if he doesn't agree with me on everything.

I will continue to vote with my conscience, continue to do what I think is right, and I will do so in the public eye for my time on council. And if that means a lone vote, it's okay with me.

And it's OK with me too, Laurin. You are doing exactly what you said you would do if elected, so people expect you to vote your conscience. It's hard to believe that all the others on the Council understood what you didn't understand. If they did understand it, then they should have been able to explain it to you.

Enjoy the break and remember that the main thing is to make the main thing the main thing!

I really wanted to thank Laurin for confirming what a lot of us already knew-that we could count on her to vote on an issue in accordance with her principles. Having worked with her on the Horace Williams Citizens Committee, I admired her earnest questioning in our discussions because it was evident from it that she wanted to be sure that she understood the point in question. This is precisely why the last minute agenda item regarding the transition money was so egregious. It is a large sum of money for our town's budget and it was disrespectful to Council members and the citizens of Chapel Hill to put this to a vote without most people even knowing it was coming.
As for the team player comment, I would hope that it was one of those comments that was said on the spur of the moment, and regretted in retrospect.

I don't know Laura at all, but I greatly admire how she has behaved on the council. I especially like seeing someone willing to take on the short end of 8-1 votes.

One of Chapel Hill's historic strengths has been its diversity of ideas and perspectives. But sometimes I worry that that diversity is being squeezed into submission by the pressures of consensus. From where I sit, consensus ain't all it's cracked up to be. It occasionally produces brilliance and breakthroughs, but not often enough to suit me.

John A.,
I'm not sure what goods you are referring to, Cam Hill made an inflammatory remark that I find surprising. My point is that I would rather have 9 people on my team who question the status quo and make clear why they are voting on issues, like Laurin.

James, Laurin, during her "freshman semester", has taken on some of the more tangled bits of business before Council - changing the current financial ethic, improving operational efficiencies using tech and working the "digital divide" - that Council (and, as importantly, our manager) have traditionally avoided.

Laurin has taken out the hoe and worked those tough rows. I think that's quite commendable.

Knowing Cam - seeing how he's functioned on the Council - I think his comment that, by her votes, folk might adduce Laurin was "not a team player" seems a reasonable observation - not a condemnation. Maybe it's kind of fun to treat Laurin as the pea under the Council's mattress, but there's more to her votes than simple intransigence.

I like a lot of what Council does - striking down redlight cameras on principle, calling for reasonable federal policy, working on civil rights issues, preserving elements of Chapel Hill's charm - but there are gaps in their policy coverage (hey, there's a reason I ran for Council). Folks have their laudable areas of interest - Cam with the Carolina North, Sally with affordable housing, Bill with transit - I think Laurin's are reflective of a good number of Chapel Hill's residents.

Strategic thinking on our budget, making service improvement an inherent work ethic, reducing reliance on consultants, expanding citizen participation (including the chattering classes), etc. maybe isn't as sexxxy as publicly condemning gender bigotry but it's just as important for the long term viability of Chapel Hill as an "ideal" community as the principled stands.

Further, I wonder if Laurin represents a sea change in Chapel Hill politics - a successful candidate running on a platform of issues that appeal to a new Chapel Hill demographic. Of course, as a fellow outsider, I might be somewhat predisposed to that viewpoint.

Thanks Will. I noticed the "Laura" instead of "Laurin" exactly 2.3 seconds after I hit submit . . . and I knew you'd be around to keep me honest! Thanks.

J

PS Like I said, I don't know her . . .

Sorry Laurin.

The thing that I think is so ironic is that in the DTH article it is Cam who is making comments that are divisive and likely to make it harder for the Council to work together as a team. I haven't heard Laurin criticize her colleagues even when she questions their policies.

I like Cam personally too, but I just don't get what he is achieving by drawing a line between Laurin and the rest of the Council (as he sees it).

Does anyone besides myself think that it's a little strange the consultant who's being paid $50,000 to bring the new Town Manager up to speed has close ties to several members of the Town Council and even served as Bill Strom's campaign treasurer? It may not be improper, but it kinda smells that way to me.

In spite of the fact that I know Tim and personally trust him not to do anything unethical, I have to agree that it doesn't look good. I think the perception of impropriety is enough reason to think about establishing more clarity between Tim's role as a volunteer (currently the Planning Board Chair) and his role as a paid consultant.

I'm glad that we agree on this, Ruby.

In addition to the points in the
Matt Dees piece in the morning's N&O, Iwould add that I think a no-bid contract like this is unwise and that those who are a volunteer chair on a Town Board should not also be contracted to do "related" work for the Town. It doesn't matter to me who the person is, it's just something that we should avoid.

The Town's over-reliance on consultants - the unexamined costs and consequences of that over-reliance - need a thorough review. Laurin, Jason, Robin and I made such a review one of the major tenets of our 2005 runs. The rest of the field, to a lesser extent, co-opted the issue. Since then, Laurin has made a number of attempts to bring some reasonableness into the consultancy process.

The rushed process of choosing our new manager started with Council selecting Tim and Anita, both personnel professionals with local experience, over cheaper consultancies that specialize in governmental placements. It's appropriate that Laurin raised a flag then and raised another with the new $50K allocation.

It seems to make sense to hire folks that understand our Town's temperament - "friends of Chapel Hill" as it's often put - but when the Chapel Hill News recently said

Other council members said Dempsey gained unique knowledge of internal organizational issues at Town Hall when he was helping narrow the field of candidates to 20.

That knowledge could help him communicate staff concerns and expectations to Stancil, allowing him to make any adjustments.

I have to wonder, "What is this unique knowledge? Why isn't this knowledge internalized into the current management structure? Is Tim's unique insight, acquired over a few months supposedly, worth $50K?"

By the way, the same article notes a $25K extension in Clarion's Roger Waldon NCD contract. Roger's quick retirement windfall, attributed to his "unique knowledge" and his being another "friend of Chapel Hill", raised eyebrows just over a year ago.

Funny enough, Tim was the first to comment on that OP thread, noting

I believe that leveraging the expertise and knowledge that Roger has gained makes sense. I believe the situation that the planning department has more work than they can handle and are stressed.

Following with the concern

As I mentioned, I think leveraging the town's long term investment in building Roger's capability and knowledge is not a bad thing. There has been no evidence offered that any other consultants were considered. Businesses usually have a process for single-source providers, and govenment may too. In reality, it's probable that no othre consultant would have the expertise that Roger had, but should the town have looked?

At the very least, I think Councilman Strom owes the citizens of Chapel Hill a bit more of an explanation about his relationship and past history with Mr.Dempsey. His comment stating that "Yes, I know Tim, but that's sort of where it ends," certainly doesn't seem to jibe with Ms. Easthom's impression that, "they know each other really, really well."

I'm with Ruby - having gotten to know both Tim and Anita (via OP, the news, the campaign) I believe they performed to a high standard.

The process Council used hiring Tim, Anita or even Roger is the problem. The reliance on consultants is the problem. The rather rapid expenditures of $15K, $30K, $50K on these type positions is the problem.

I expected that the promised citizen's budget review board would look at consultancies along with other problematic items. That process, obviously, was dispensed with this year.

We need some reform.

As far as the consultants for running the manager search go, you get what you pay for. Maybe a search firm that specializes in these things would have been cheaper than Tim and Anita, but they wouldn't have put nearly as much effort into it- those firms tend to be juggling several of these at once and I've been involved in governmental units where a search firm steered someone we wanted to hire to another organization whose search they were consulting. I think we were lucky to have two such qualified people who also were personally invested in getting the best candidate possible because of their role in the town- we got as good a candidate as there is out there and I think Tim and Anita were worth every dollar.

I do think the public input process could have been improved, which was the topic of my Herald column a couple weeks ago.

Tom, I missed the editorial, is it online?

One of my concerns about the process, besides the rapidity, was the lack of transparency in some critical aspects. For instance, are the notes generated during the interview process, with specific personnel-related information redacted, going to be available in a timely manner?

I'm glad we're taking on some of the long term management problems. We've known about these issues for years but some on the Council are only now publicly admitting the need for dramatic restructuring:

Dempsey and Strom said last week that Dempsey's job won't be so much to help Stancil move into his new role as it will be to work with Stancil and the council to change the way town government functions.

It's still not clear what those changes might be. Both Dempsey and Strom said they couldn't elaborate because many of the issues relate to personnel matters.

Matt Dee's July 18th N&O article

BTW, Tim contributed to my 2005 campaign (thanks Tim) - and I believe we both worked at Nortel "back in the day" - I hope that wouldn't preclude me from asking his advice.

It's online now-

A tale of two towns' head hunters
Chapel Hill Herald (NC)
July 1, 2006
Author: TOM JENSEN Columnist
Estimated printed pages: 3

I grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., a community in many ways similar to Chapel Hill.
I continue to be very involved in both places, although in Ann Arbor, my greater interest is in the governance of the school district, while here I am most interested in the town.

This dual residency often gives me an opportunity to compare how each place does things. About half of the time, I see things in Chapel Hill that I think should be replicated in Ann Arbor, and just as often I see things in Ann Arbor that I think should be replicated in Chapel Hill.

Never was that more true than in the past two months as Chapel Hill embarked upon its new manager selection process while Ann Arbor picked a new school superintendent.

The most important thing in picking a new chief executive has to be getting a large field of qualified candidates.

When governing bodies need to do this they frequently hire consultants. Chapel Hill hired two experienced human resource experts who are also very involved in the local community, Anita Badrock and Tim Dempsey.

This decision drew criticism from some town activists who thought that hiring a firm that specializes in these kinds of positions would have been a better choice. Ann Arbor, on the other hand, hired the Michigan Association of School Boards to conduct its search, a group that among other things specializes in conducting superintendent searches.

Based on the number of applications for each position, the hiring of Badrock and Dempsey was clearly the right choice. Chapel Hill received 120 applications, while Ann Arbor received only 26.

The reasons for this are pretty clear. Not only are Badrock and Dempsey talented professionals, but they also have a personal interest in ensuring that Chapel Hill has strong governance.

They made this their priority for three months, and the results speak for themselves.

With a much larger pool to choose from, Chapel Hill was able to hire a manager with years of experience as the manager in a sizable city. Although I'm confident the new superintendent in Ann Arbor is going to do a great job, he has never held the top position before, and the district where he was the assistant superintendent is smaller than Ann Arbor.

The choice to hire qualified local residents to oversee the manager search process was a good decision by the town council, and one other communities could learn from.

When it came to engaging citizens in the selection of a new leader, Chapel Hill could learn some lessons from Ann Arbor, though.

For instance, while trying to develop a profile for the new manager, Chapel Hill invited about 30 citizen activists to a Saturday morning meeting to give their feedback at Town Hall.

Ann Arbor, on the other hand, had several well-publicized meetings at a variety of different times that the entire community was invited to for the purpose of stating what it wanted in a superintendent. This was a better way of encouraging people to get involved.

Once finalists were chosen, Chapel Hill invited the community at-large to ask the candidates questions at Town Hall.

However, there was no formal channel for residents to give their feedback on the candidates.

In Ann Arbor, the school district solicited applications for citizens to serve on a committee that interviewed the superintendent candidates and then gave formal, written feedback to the bard of education on what it felt to be each of the finalists' strengths and weaknesses.

This gave community members a more formalized stake in the process and is something local governments should think about doing the next time they hire new chief executives.

That said, I think the process as a whole for selecting a new manager in Chapel Hill was very well done. Some have questioned the fast time line, but I think it's great that the new manager now has two months to learn the lay of the land before moving into the position. He will be much better prepared now to hit the ground running than if he had not been hired until later in the summer.

Even though it only took a few months, the subcommittee of the town council that chose the finalists thoroughly vetted the candidates, going through a multilayered interview process.

It took an extensive amount of thoughtful work to choose the three finalists and Kevin Foy, Bill Strom, Bill Thorpe and Ed Harrison should be thanked for their willingness to put in all that extra time on top of their already large duties as members of the council.

And most important, Roger Stancil will be an outstanding manager. Not only does he have a lot of experience, but he is also a courageous leader. He has shown a willingness to make the right move even if it isn't the most popular one, and that's a trait I greatly respect.

Thanks to the work of the consultants and the town council, Chapel Hill has a bright future even as it loses Cal Horton's steady leadership.

Tom Jensen is a local political activist and a recent graduate of UNC. Readers can contact him at tjensen@email.unc.edu or c/o The Chapel Hill Herald, 106 Mallette St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516.
Caption:
Mug: JENSEN

Generally speaking, and in this case I feel no exception to the rule has been made, consultants are just a way to flush money down the toilet without stopping up the water pipes.

I have no problem with Tim Dempsey's connections with
the local councilmembers. He and Anita did a good job
in the manager's search and I'm confident that he'll do a
good job in any future role he has with the town. That's
just the way he is.

However I agree with Laurin's stance to not re-hire Tim
(or anyone else) for a task that is so vague.
I wouldn't vote to spend 50K on a counsultant without
knowing in some detail what he will do. A vague statement
like he will help the new manager is not enough, and
for two reasons. First, it's too vague to evaluate, and
second, we have hired an experienced professional
manager. It's his job to decide where to continue what
is working and change what is not, based on his training and experience working in other cities. That's why he is
paid the big bucks.

"Both Dempsey and Strom said they couldn't elaborate because many of the issues relate to personnel matters."
This is nonsense -- we're still hiring a consultant and his
tasks need to be specified in a contract. How else will
we know whether and when he has given the town 50K worth of professional services?

I also agree with Ruby, Charles and Fred that this smells like cronyism.

5:09pm Fri. July 21st, WCHL

Dan Siler, commenting on the 11-month cost of leasing office space for the new Carrboro High School staff

$45,000, that'll almost buy you 3 months of a consultant in Chapel Hill

Apt.

Tim Dempsey announced his resignation from the Planning Board tonight, effective tomorrow.

I'm very sad about this. Tim was an exceptionally conscientious and intelligent member of the body. Just tonight he noticed a big problem with an application for a Special Use Permit that most of the other Board members, including myself, had not noticed. He had a great ability for picking small things out of large packets that were very important.

He was also a strong leader. He served several terms as chair of the Board, and ran meetings in a very efficient way that made things better for both members of the public and his colleagues.

Tim's presence on the Planning Board indisputably improved development in Chapel Hill, and I don't think his shoes can be filled in that role.

Tim will do a great job in his consulting role for the town, as he did on the manager search.

Thank you Tim for your service on the Planning Board- I hope this isn't your last volunteer stint for the town- you would be a great future Councilmember and if you ever decide to run, sign me up.

Thank you Tim for all your service to our community.

I hope you'll continue to monitor the planning process during the coming CN negotiations and step forward, as you have in the past, to help us arrive at a decent outcome.

Gene, I would argue that any chair of any board or commission who receives an up to $50K contract to assist a new town manager would have a conflict interest if they remained as chair of the board or commission, irrespective of what the media did. One member of the Council indicated that she didn't understand the objective; why should anyone expect the rest of us to? The principles of good and ethical public administration would say this issue should be a no brainer, especially given the role of the Planning Board in our town. As I'm out of town, I don't have access to the conflict agreement that I signed to serve on a board, but I think that it broadly covered this type of situation.

It seems that what some in Chapel Hill are unwilling to label as a "conflict of interest" is related to who's the object of the labeling and who's doing the labeling.

The Council did a terrific job in creating the process and selection of hiring a new town manager. But it has done an equally terrible job in explaining the consulting contract with Tim Dempsey. The press has also done a miserable job of asking the correct questions concerning the engagement. Instead they have reported absurd speculations of some "payback". The fact is that the projects that Tim will be working on over the next six months are very important to the town and it's citizens. As Chairman last year of the citizens budget committee, I was generally against most consulting contracts that the Council authorized, but in this case I totally support the contract. I hope the Council will do a better job of explaining it when it is awarded, so the press can be more accurate in reporting the facts to the public. It is a shame that because of this speculation and accusations of conflict of interest, that Tim felt the need to resign from the Planning Board Monday night in order to honor the consulting agreement. He had served the Town well over many years and was an outstanding Chairman, and we thank him for his service.

Gene, you're dead on saying "I hope the Council will do a better job of explaining it when it is awarded, so the press can be more accurate in reporting the facts to the public."

But the Council doesn't have to wait. Staff could start explaining, in detail, the "means and ends" of the consultancy. What are the goals? What's the process? How will success be measured?

Further, Council could bolster confidence by releasing, at least as much as possible, the "work product" of the manager selection process. We know that a number of long term management deficiencies were identified - what are they specifically? What other problems were discovered?

It's probably premature to ask what corrective actions are anticipated and I imagine Council plans to wait for our new manager, which is probably prudent, before establishing an agenda to fix these outstanding issues, but they could at least release enough of the prior work to build a case for further consultancy.

Ample light will kill any mold. They don't have to wait.

From the application:

Yes, if appointed, I pledge to comply with the following ethics guidelines for advisory boards and commissions as adopted by the Chapel Hill Town Council. (Other Council committees and OWASA are excluded.)

Members of advisory boards and commissions shall not discuss, advocate, or vote on any matter in which they have
a conflict of interest or an interest which reasonably might appear to be in conflict with the concept of fairness in
dealing with public business. A conflict of interest or a potential conflict occurs if a member has a separate, private,
or monetary interest, either direct or indirect, in any issue or transaction under consideration. Any member who
violates this provision may be subject to removal from the board or commission.

If the advisory board or commission member believes he/she has a conflict of interest then that member should ask
the advisory board or commission to be recused from voting. The advisory board or commission should then vote on
the question on whether or not to excuse the member making the request. In cases where the individual member or
the advisory board or commission establishes a conflict of interest, then the advisory board or commission member
shall remove themselves from the voting area.

Any advisory board or commission member may seek the counsel of the Town Attorney on questions regarding the
interpretation of these ethics guidelines or other conflict of interest matters. The interpretation may include a
recommendation on whether or not the advisory board or commission member should excuse himself/herself from
voting. The advisory board or commission member may request the Town Attorney respond in writing.

Another piece that is missing from this discussion about the contract is Roger Stancil's views. What problems were identified that Tim needs to address? Roger has 25 years experience, does he have the skills to tackle these? What kind of message are we sending Roger that we feel he needs a $50K consultant to help him transition into the Town Manager position?

Your welcome Fred.

Thanks for posting that, WillR. Those guidelines were adopted by the Council on March 1, 1999 and slightly different from the version I signed in 1995. At that time, it was a separate document, not part of the application process, best I remember.

I think the current version makes the case very well. "An interest which reasonably might appear to be in conflict with the concept of fairness in dealing with public business" covers a lot of situations.

Andrea, excellent point. Weren't you interviewed by Tim and Anita? Did they ask you to list any problems?

Fred, you probably remember some of the discussions two years ago on tightening/strengthening/clarifying the town's code of ethics. At that time I was concerned about the poor grasp that Harrison, Wiggins, Verkerk, Ward had of the basic concept of fairness by falling under the undo influence ACS (and its Astroturf organization).

I was thinking of resurecting my 2004 notes on those ethics discussions (on my 'blog) to try to shed some light on my current concerns about the upcoming reviews of RAM Development's (the town's development partner) proposed Hillsborough St. condo project.

Council member's desire for the downtown development, of course, does not constitue a "separate, private, or monetary interest, either direct or indirect, in any issue or transaction under consideration". Yet, it is still is an "interest which reasonably might appear to be in conflict with the concept of fairness in dealing with public business”.

I know the folks on Council fairly well now, know the commitment to serve our citizens well, so I don't expect perfidy. Still, considering the $$$ on the table, the long term obligation they're laying on the citizens shoulders, I would like to see the process clarified.

I look forward to hearing more from the Mayor on how the two desires - Council's and RAM's - won't come into conflict.

Will, I was not interviewed by Tim or Anita.
I wish there had been an opportunity for public input earlier in the hiring process.

Fred and Andrea,

Fred, With all due respect, I couldn't disagree more. I don't read the ethics guidelines as supporting your case at all. Thanks for the post Will. I have been on the Planning Board for over 21/2 years and cannot imagine an issue we would see that would be in conflict with Tim's consulting duties. And in the unlikely event one did, knowing his integrity, he wouldn't particapte in the discussion or vote.

Andrea, I believe the majority of the work being done will not be in transitioning Roger, but rather work that is for the Council. Your questions are well founded because as I stated yesterday, the reasons for the contract have not been very well articulated to the public. And should be.

If, (and since we have not been told) the consulting gets into personnel and organizational issues involing the staff, I would perfer to not have a chair of one board involved in these private discussions with a new manager while he is on the payroll. I still feel that it is cleaner not to be wearing those two hats at the same time.

Bitter much?

While I have been very critical of Cal's administration over the years, I also think he is an immensely talented manager and anyone can see that he accomplished a lot for Chapel Hill. I don't see what's wrong with his friends honoring him upon his retirement from a distinguished career.

More cognitive dissonance. I think the management style led to a number of the problems Tim and others have identified.

Hmmm. Looks like some folks are in a bit of denial.

Many friends and admirers of Cal Horton believe that his extraordinary service should have lasting recognition, and should stand as an example to other Town of Chapel Hill employees. These friends have established a fund for the Cal Horton Municipal Service Award.

Cal Horton Municipal Service Award

What about the problems Tim identified?

Those friends? The Chamber of Commerce's Aaron Nelson for one and their sponsoring group "The Foundation for a Sustainable Community".

Administrative Contact:
Nelson, Aaron anelson@carolinachamber.org
Foundation for a Sustainable Community
104 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514
United States
(919) 967-7075 Fax --

Technical Contact:
Nelson, Aaron anelson@carolinachamber.org
Foundation for a Sustainable Community
104 S. Estes Dr.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514
United States
(919) 967-7075

I wonder if Cal is being readied to walk through a revolving door ala Waldron.

And no town manager is perfect, but anyone who can successfully navigate the special characteristics of our community for 16 years is well deserving of some positive recognition upon retirement. Aaron seems like a perfectly reasonable person to organize it.

I think Cal made it pretty clear what "retirement" will mean for him - retirement. If after so many years of service some citizens didn't organize such an event, it would say something very negative about our community. I would also hypnotize that many who will attend the event all have a number of issues that they could relate where they had differences with the Manager.

I guess the negative spin on anything and everything is now the norm for some. As the political process gets more and more hostile and negative and more and more personal, I think it's important to remember that reasonable people ought to be able to disagree on policy and politics without hatred or rancor. We also need to remember that in the council-manager form that we have, disagreements and tensions will always be with us; it really is at the heart of the administrative process. What's important is how it is handled. Chapel Hill has done better than thousands of other jurisdictions. We have been blessed with a highly skilled manager, and agree or disagree with his management decisions or style, he deserves our thanks for his many years of service and a job well done.

I can only speak from personal experience - having examined, in detail, at close range - the operations of town since mid-2000. From that perspective, I'm confident in your assertion we've done better than many other communities. I'll absolutely agree.

Job well done is a debatable point (especially considering the $50K plunked down this week to help correct some long standing issues).

And your right, tension, rancor, hostility and negativity is definitely part of the problem - just not in the way your trying to slant it Fred.

I wish Cal many happy years in retirement but I won't grace his exit by pretending his recent performance was anymore than adequate.

I've had the opportunity to interact with Cal several times over the last seven years that I've served on Town advisory boards. I've also attended many Town Council meetings and had an opportunity to see how Cal interacts with Council members as well as with citizens. I don't know what "problems" Tim Dempsey might have identified during the search for a new Town Manager. What I do know is what I think. And I think Cal has done a great job in helping this Town grow under circumstances that might have been the downfall of many (most) other towns in the same situation. Anyone want to move from Chapel Hill to Cary?

WillR, I think you're often well-informed (not always) and usually a truly concerned citizen but Cal has earned a decent send-off without anyone, and I mean anyone, questioning the motives. Cynicism has its place - and this isn't it. We should all aspire to end our work careers on such a high note.

Point taken GeorgeC.

Back to the topic at hand, I assume many of you read this article in the CHN.

http://www.chapelhillnews.com/news/story/2988053p-9416147c.html

Kevin Foy offers the most specific explanation so far for this contract:

"If you're going to change leadership at the top every 16 years, that's the time you need to look at things with a critical eye, and you need to shake things up," he said, referring to outgoing manager Horton's long tenure in Town Hall.

"How do we create an organization that learns to reinvigorate itself, that learns to change with the times, that brings ideas forward and that is efficient in its delivery of service? That's the kind of work that Tim does."

It would have been good if this could have been articulated by anyone on the council before the decision was made. It's not too much to ask. And if being a team player means never asking for this sort of justification, we need to field a new team.

"It would have been good if this could have been articulated by anyone on the council before the decision was made."

Ed, I think your comment addresses much of the frustration that has been vented on this site. I think Kevin has done an excellent job of explaining the Council's rationale for hiring Tim but, unfortunately, it did not come early in the process. Perhaps if people can accept this explanation, after the fact, we can acknowledge that mistakes were made and begin to move on, together, to begin a new era of town governance under a new town manager. We have a great town with great potential but it will only be realized if we can somehow figure out how to work as a team to pull it all together.

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