A Symptom of Pevely’s Problems

31 Jul

Pevely apparently just found out that they paid twice for a trailer they bought two years ago, according to the July 25 Leader (now with all articles online!) The city paid for the trailer when it was ordered and again when it was delivered. The vendor noticed the double payment (as one would expect a business to do) and issued the city a credit, which it never used. When this was finally figured out a few weeks ago, the city requested a refund of the duplicate payment (of $5,589).

This kind of activity might help explain the city’s dire financial straits, which have led to tax hikes and some spending cuts. While I have been critical of the current administration in Pevely, it appears that they are correct in suggesting that the previous management was responsible for many problems, which are in the process of being fixed. In addition to the trailer issue, the city was not collecting all of the money it was entitled to collect on two sales taxes. I’m not a fan of taxes, but if you decide to levy them, you might as well collect them. This has been remedied. The new administration, clerk Stephanie Haas and Administrator Terry Thomas, have also separated out the general fund account from other special accounts, which were previously lumped together.

The state audit of Pevely, now in progress, could find some more issues like these. Before Thomas became city admin, Jason Eisenbeis held down the job. He now holds the same job in Crystal City. Should Crystal City regret that hire? Is that city now going to start double-paying for trailers?

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One Response to “A Symptom of Pevely’s Problems”

  1. wrongonred July 31, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    One of the problems generally is that it takes a “special” person to be an administrator in the Public Sector. Many business oriented individuals have little desire due to the politics and entrenched bureaucracy of it all. Typically, when there are issues of great magnitude, and new leadership is brought in, those individuals are given free reign to bring in their own folks. Why? Because the business world is all about connections, and functional and cohesive units are formed due to the discretion and latitude which project managers and Department Heads are given. They are allowed to separate the wheat from the chaff in order to form the most efficient and productive team possible. Studies have shown that these units will be high performing regardless of the task or project, even if it is something out of their wheelhouse due to a) the work ethic fostered within the unit and inherent within the members of the unit themselves. The same is true for high performing individuals. They will excel no matter if you have them dig ditches, or have them manage a project. It is simply their nature.

    Why this does not work in the Public Sector is the lack of accountability. If someone pays a vendor twice in Accounts Payable and does not catch it in 2 years, and does not conduct their own reconciliation, in most businesses, they would be severely reprimanded, if not fired. Not because they are a bad person, they just are not proficient at their role. Not so in the public sector. These individuals can make repeated million dollar+ mistakes yet still retain their positions. What firm in the world would allow this? Answer- None

    That is where the twofold issues come in. Individuals are entrenched in their bureaucracy, and the political optics of a wholesale change of leadership is made to be unpalatable by those political factions which seek cover within the bureaucracy and in many cases financially benefit from it. Take Michelle Rhee and her attempted turn around of the DC Public Schools as a prime example. Her methods were effective, but because they were effective, the Unions forced her out.

    Secondly, most business minded and trained managers would find themselves miserable in the bureaucratic culture of unaccountability and inability to manage personnel and teams as they could in the private sector. Whether this is because of an existing union, severely restrictive contracts written with the desire to create “loyal” rather than performance driven employees, or just the “Good Ol’ Boys” mentality which pervades many career bureaucrats in Arnold where they are each a leg in an unstable stool and if one caves, and a circular firing squad ensues.

    To a manger from the private sector where performance and efficiency are the ultimate goals, and the numbers posted are what matters, not how hard you try, it is like a lead bar being strapped to the leg of a competitive swimmer and asking them to meet the same times they had been posting. This is my belief as to why we see one poor performing individual exchanged for another in many cases. The candidate pool is very shallow because performance driven individuals will take a private sector role with flexibility and the ability to manage subordinates of lesser pay and benefits than a public role with greater benefits where they are not rewarded for performance are hamstrung in personnel decisions, and are instead rewarded for their loyalty in covering up errors, kissing up to the powers that be instead of being objective, and the ability to fog the mirror.

    This is my belief why we continue to see individuals fail at the ability to efficiently and effectively manage the mechanisms of bureaucracy in Jefferson County. The errors and poor judgments I have seen Bob Shockey, Diane Waller, Matt Unrein, Debbie Lewis, Greg Hall, Bob Sweeney, Eisenbeis and others commit would get you canned in the equivalent capacity in any firm I have worked at. Until the constitutions of career bureaucrats are forced, by the voters through their elected officials, to be comparable to those of their private sector counterparts, we will continue to see these issues continue to occur unabated.

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