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Community Forum: Ricci Responds to ICMA Flap

University City Ward 2 Council member Lynn Ricci's letter.

I write to make you aware of a deceptive undercurrent stirring.

Our City Manager Lehman Walker inherited 30+ years mis-management. He has had a gargantuin job in righting this ship. And it appears prior administration is angered that, in the process, a bright light fell on their malfeasance (You only need to look at the , the independent CPA audit, and the report from the financial consultants).

So they have made a concerted effort to use their membership in a small organization called International City Managers Assocation [ICMA] as a weapon to discredit Mr. Walker. Mr. Walker, although not a city manger at the time, was also a member.

This group pushed to sanction Mr. Walker, but Mr. Walker has lived a stand up life. And so they went fishing and came up with a hand full of private emails talking about budget ideas; talking about Julie Feier’s subordination when she threatened to fire directors if they spoke with me, and responding to a request for his resume. And they noted that Mr. Walker was in the City of Evanston for less than 2 years. For this sum of offenses, they wish to sanction Mr. Walker and take away his membership.

The complainers are a half dozen local city managers. They filed the complaint with the national ICMA and the national ICMA in turn appointed local member city managers as "fact finders!"

It did not matter to the organization that:

  • Mr. Walker was leaving his department director position with Evanston’s blessing to accept a bigger responsibility as city manager position.
  • The emails were private emails.
  • The emails were sent when he was not an employee of the City.
  • Mr. Walker accomplished for fiscal year 2013 what Julie Feier said was impossible: Julie Feier: $2 million deficit; cut in City services; attempting to increase taxes; verses Lehman Walker: $400,000 surplus; no cut in City services; no tax increase.

And it did not matter that:

  • Mr. Walker did not know the complainers [all local];
  • Mr. Walker did not know the fact finders [again all local];
  • The complainers, fact finders, Julie Feier and her camp are all friends.
  • The complainers, fact finders, Julie Feier and her camp all sit together and regularly meet on local boards, assocations, and like kind groups [Missouri CMA; St. L. Ins. Trust; etc.].
  • At least one of the complainers was using his city’s funds to buy alcohol and further he charged his city for more than what he actually paid...and ICMA did not sanction him.
  • At least one of the fact finders was arrested for DWI and then a warrant was issued for his arrest for failure to appear in court...and ICMA did not sanction him.
  • One of the city managers assocated with this group pled guilty and was convicted of stealing from his city...and the ICMA did not sanction him.
  • Julie Feier in writing and in person bad mouthed councilmembers, eg. calling me among other things “evil”, a clear unprofessional act and an act of insubordiation...and the ICMA did not sanction her.
  • Julie Feier via email schemed how to circumvent our compensation  ordinances to get more in raises for her employee friends...and the ICMA did not sanction her.
  • Julie Feier left her positon as assistant city manager after 15 months instead of 24 months...the ICMA did not sanction her.

Historically the level of ICMA sanctions met out to Mr. Walker are reserved for such serious offenses as pedophilia, DWI, stealing, felony convictions.

But in this case, it appears the ICMA very willingly cast aside what is right, became political, and metted out the severest of sanctions to Mr. Walker...for a hand full of private emails and for leaving a postion in less than two years to elevate himself to city manager.

It is my hope you stand up for Mr. Walker. It is my hope you do not let this absurdity distract you! Our City cannot weather the reinstallation of the likes of prior administration.

Regards,

Lynn Ricci

Karen Smith March 11, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Thanks for the clarification City Manager. I guess the previous city manager was not a member of the ICMA? Based on the MO State Auditor there was financial miss-management that occurred while she was the city manager...it seems to me that this should have had some level of sanctioning. Yes, city managers should follow policies and procedures and one should always strive to improve. But if the conduct of other city managers in the St. Louis area was reviewed, there would be a number of abused identified. I am trying to understand why the ICMA chose this particular incidence to sanction. And will the ICMA be reviewing the comments made by city administrators on this site? The comments being made here are now public...this is a public site by which comments are being made by city managers about another city manager's conduct. Is this the appropriate forum for city administrators to be having this conversation?? Just wondering.
saul March 11, 2012 at 07:58 PM
George - From what I understand the ICMA does not feel their decision or guidelines carry the weight of the law, and from the general consensus it doesn't seem that people are agreeing that it does either or blindly following them as if they are Federal authority. The only thing that would give it legal weight would have been the wording that the present administration put into the contract giving the ICMA ethics guidelines such importance relative to Mr Walkers continued employment. Certainly not the fault of the University City residents. The citizens of University City did not elevate the ICMA and ethics guidelines to its presnt level, that was the job of the present administration. I enjoy your contributions George, I don't often agree, but I enjoy your presence here.
Karen Smith March 11, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Good point Saul. However, I wonder if the financial picture painted by the previous city adminstrator caused the current Board to feel a sense of urgency. If UCity burned through its reserves and was not able to meet is financial obligations its sustainability would have been at risk and the conversations taking place today would be very different. Maybe that sense of urgency created by the previous city manager created a situation where the Board thought their choices were narrowing and they had to move quickly.
George Lenard March 11, 2012 at 08:05 PM
No double standard. I don't recall exactly what statements you refer to, but if I admitted lack of factual basis when asked I would expect others to either do the same or demonstrate factual basis, rather than pointing a finger back at me to dodge the question.
saul March 11, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Karen - With all due respect I cannot agree with your reasoning about the previous administration forcing them to quickly hire due to a lack of resources. At the time of the administration change I was not a resident of University CIty so I'm not going to get into what things were like back then because I am not informed. However regardless of financial problems or other looming calamities, the worst decsion that could be made would be to rush into a long term contract ( with severence penalties) just to find somebody to put into place. That is when real leadership is required to take the time to do things correctly for the long term. That is purely my opinion on how things should operate when chaos hits. I'm not going to let them off that easily no matter how bad the prior administration was. I do think they had the time and resources to do a correct search, the situation demanded it.
George Lenard March 11, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Thanks, Saul. I hope to have my written analysis of the rules, the violations, and the contract delivered to City Hall tomorrow morning and available to the public at Monday night's meeting. The short answer on the contract is that the ICMA rules were considered relevant, but the City did not bind itself to any course of action upon an ICMA finding of violation or expulsion.
Karen Smith March 11, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Saul - -I am not sure that UCIty found just "anyone to put into place". Although I can't speak for the Board, I wonder if the Board felt that by getting someone knowledgeable of UCity (i.e., how it operated, its finances, etc.) that he/she would be able to hit the ground running...there wouldn't be as much of a learning curve. And it would appear that they did as Mr. Walker corrected the bleak financial situation quickly. I don't know if it would be worth the time to review the issues at hand at the time that this decision was made to see if this helps clarify??? It is important to understand the issues at hand and the information available at the time a decision is made.
Steve March 11, 2012 at 08:38 PM
On March 9, 2012, two days ago, you made a specific factual allegation about Ms. Carr “I see them as technical violations at most that caused no harm other than a brouhaha--one that would not have occurred had candidate Paulette Carr (your baseless allegation here). One might consider her a civic hero for this (obviously I don't)” You had and have no factual support for that statement. It was not an “if” or “maybe” or a question. You made a false, factual statement with no support. Now you say you don’t recall. Maybe you sling so much out here that you can’t remember what was true and what was false. Also, to claim that asking for a remedy allowed by law is bad seems to blame the victim. Maybe the City should be more concerned with holding proper meetings so they don’t face this issue. The Audit revealed improper meetings on, April 28, 2010, July 6, 2010, July 12, 2010, and October 4, 2010-all under Mayor Welsch. The July meetings relate to Mr. Walker’s hiring.
Maggie Rotermund March 12, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Please remember to keep the conversation civil and on-point. Patch's terms of use can be found here — http://universitycity.patch.com/terms.
Lisa Hummel March 13, 2012 at 03:31 AM
At tonight's city council meeting, Ms. Ricci dismissed the concerns of many of her constituents (those of us expressing dismay at the events surrounding the city manager's censure) by stating that she is "disappointed" in the citizens who want to "stir things up" for "personal reasons". Jen Jensen stood up during citizen comments and also dismissed our concerns, calling us "a few" people, and stating that "the lights are on" in U. City, and everything is greatly improved, in reference to the Post Dispatch editorial today. I am tired of having my very real concerns about the trustworthiness of my local government belittled by Ricci and others. If they feel our concerns are unfounded, they need to prove them wrong instead of trying to marginalize our point of view. I don't think it's just a few of us, and if it is, that's because of the bullying and misinformation going on about this issue. If more people knew about the deceptions and manipulations of our mayor and her supporters, I think they would be outraged. And how dare Ms. Ricci say I am "stirring things up...for personal reasons"? She knows nothing of my reasons. She thinks this is all still about Julie Feier. I don't know Julie Feier (though I have friends who do). I've met her once, very briefly, and I don't know if she did a good job or not. This issue is not about that. It's about the integrity and competence of the current administration, which seems to many of us to be sorely lacking.
Deedis Dunn March 13, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Yes Lisa, I keep thinking I am seeing Sarah Palin in action these days around here and at City Hall. That damn lamestream media and those gotcha citizens...Either that or a Scooby Doo episode,,,"we would have gotten away with it were it not for those peskie hippies and Paulette Carr!"
George Lenard March 13, 2012 at 02:18 PM
I was surprised, to say the least, at how few people stood up to voice complaints about Mr. Walker. Specifically, I was surprised by which vocal opponents of him and Mayor Welsch on Patch sat silently during citizen comments rather than speaking up and which did not even attend the meeting. Free speech includes the right not to speak, but I got the impression that the opinions voiced at Council last night are more representative of the citizenry than are those on Patch. Maybe anonymity really does encourage people to say things they don't care to say publicly.
Steve March 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
George, I am glad you had a good time at the Council meeting. I could not attend, but I know that my comments here are reaching the Council.
Deedis Dunn March 13, 2012 at 04:32 PM
George The Dunn family was doing what you so often suggest, we were going on with the business of U. City with schools and family. A lovely night of music at Flynn Park followed by literacy night. It was a wonderful evening. I saw no need to go to the meeting to stand and declare what the child has already told us, "the emperor has no clothes."
George Lenard March 13, 2012 at 05:17 PM
It is what it is. Or was what it was. It wasn't a "good time." Yes, I imagine this forum is well read. But it is not the same thing as standing up to address the Council and go on the record. Whatever the "Dunn" family was doing, most of the citizen comments did not establish that "the emperor has no clothes," so Mr. Dunn's or Cindy's comments would have added some weight. As it was, quite a number of citizens provided substantial support for Mr. Walker based on citizens' involvement with City governance for many years. My own comments, the long version of which will be available as part of the minutes, did not merely offer support for Mr. Walker, but argued for the Council to take action and make a public statement, which it did.
Jeff Hales March 13, 2012 at 05:42 PM
George... I don't find it surprising. The Mayor and Council have come under enormous scrutiny over their decisions regarding the City Manager and his contract. There were 6 people who spoke in defense - on some level or another - of the Mayor and Council and their recent decisions. At least 5 of them: Mr. Price, Ms. Brot, Ms. Jensen, Mr. Pace, yourself are all endorsers of Jan Adams for Council. It's clear to anyone who pays even the slightest bit of attention to this race that Jan Adams and her five endorsers are on aligned with each other aligned with the Mayor / Council Majority on this issue. As we saw last night, members of the council majority sought marginalize the ICMA as a professional organization, marginalize those local city managers who filed the complaints with their professional organization, the ICMA, and in the case of Councilmember Ricci, marginalize our citizens by scolding those citizens for their "gyrations", by saying those citizens "for personal reasons want to stir this stuff up". Many of us are unhappy that what was supposed to be an open, competitive search for a new city manager and a fresh start for good government in University City, very quickly turned into the equivalent of a no-bid contract with the closed-door selection of Mr. Walker and cancelation of the national search. That decision was arguably wrong, and it was THAT DECISION that created the political and public relations mess that the city now faces.
George Lenard March 13, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Jeff: I would not have been aligned with the Mayor / Council Majority had they not chosen to go into executive session on this issue and had they not issued a statement going beyond mere disclosure of the vote. That should be clear from my comments last night. I agree completely with your last paragraph. But, guess what, that was in the summer of 2010! It was a hiring decision Council makes, not the voters. It didn't trouble me because the benefits of hiring back a valued former employee seemed self-evident and because public search is a very imperfect process, as seen in some other unsuccessful public-search hirings in U. City and the school district. Probably many private workplaces have their own tales of the superiority of inside hiring/promotion over outside search (its not always better, but often enough). The surprise last night is that (I believe), after all this online debate, nobody expressly got up and said "I ask that the Council vote to terminate Mr. Walker's employment immediately." I think one speaker said he and the mayor should resign, but I would have expected a well-orchestrated series of speakers with a full-court press insisting on termination.
Jeff Hales March 13, 2012 at 07:34 PM
George... I know you want to make this about Mr. Walker, but it is not. I think people are disappointed in Mr. Walker. I think people think he should have understood that when he emailed Lynn Ricci to discuss Ms. Freier that it was likely an ethics violation. I think people are puzzled that he didn't notice the ICMA ethics rules when he received the contract and realize it could be problematic given his communciation with Ms. Ricci. While many are disappointed some of the behavior of Mr. Walker that lead to his ICMA censure, I think many are disgusted by the decisions of council and the Mayor, the appearance of cronyism, and their attempts to address the subject by marginalizing all of those with whom they disagree and that is why they face the crisis in confidence that they do. We deserve better.
George Lenard March 13, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Jeff: I would have preferred a public discussion and vote. There wasn't, so we don't know how carefully and independently Council members analyzed the situation. Based on the varying statements that Council members did make publicly, I think it's likely there was some disagreement and debate in the closed session. There's a middle ground between marginalizing those who wished a harsher outcome and marginalizing the ICMA, on one hand, and allowing ICMA to dictate our personnel choices, on the other. That middle ground is trying to objectively review the facts. I spent the weekend giving that my best shot, resulting in the ten-page, single-spaced letter I submitted into the record. We obviously don't all agree about the right conclusion from such a review, but it doesn't require "cronyism" or anything else untoward to explain why a majority of Council looked at the facts and found that ICMA misapplied their rules, both in finding the violations and in the penalty they issued. Any marginalizing of opposition that occurred last night was self-induced, as so few of those desiring a stronger response spoke up.
Jeff Hales March 13, 2012 at 08:51 PM
George... It would not be appropriate for the ICMA to judge the Mayor & Council's decision regarding their finding and it not appropriate for the Council and Mayor to render judgement the ICMA's decision. If the council does not want to take any action regarding Mr. Walker, fine, but they look utterly foolish when they attack the ICMA for the decision they reached about Mr. Walker. Regarding the "self-marginalization" that you refer to, all of those who spoke last night and expressed disappointment over the council's decisions were very thoughtful in their remarks. I think for many, last night was an opportunity for many of us to hear an explanation as to what has been going. With out much explanation, I suspect you will have an opportunity to hear more from the opposition in the coming weeks. Last point and I feel it really characterizes Mayor Welsch, when Mr. Crow wanted to have the public discussion that you desired and he seconded the motion to do so, Mayor Welsch said: "I do not feel this is appropriate."
George Lenard March 13, 2012 at 09:24 PM
Jeff, I agree it's not about attacking the ICMA. It's about the City independently deciding, based on the known facts, what to do about it. I still don't think anyone came right out and said Mr. Walker should be fired, but perhaps I missed that or don't remember correctly. I certainly expected to see a parade of people calling for that. Perhaps that will be a campaign position, with certain candidates saying expressly that they would vote to do just that--and holding back last night is perceived to strengthen that position. If that's how they feel and what their intended conduct if elected would be, I surely hope they shine the sun on their position! I noticed the response from the Mayor you mention and fully agree with those who desire more of the promised openness. I think Mr. Price and Mr. Crow made a point that is probably correct: just because the law permits a closed meeting on personnel and legal issues doesn't mean this MUST always be done. On the other hand, there are some pretty good reasons for keeping those matters private -- or the closed meeting exception wouldn't exist. It may be quite difficult to strike the right balance between transparency and governing effectively. I think President Obama is an example of a politician who found "transparency" easier to promise than to deliver. Perhaps that goes with the territory.
Jeff Hales March 14, 2012 at 02:15 AM
I just realized I never answered your question... I must have been distracted. To answer your question, yes, Mrs. Carr was truthful. You are connecting two dots that don't aren't connected in any way. I think for those who have read the suit, it's quite clear the suit seeks to void the vote taken by council, not to void the contract.
George Lenard March 14, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Jeff: Wasn't the vote to be voided the vote to enter into the contract? Wouldn't voiding that vote void the contract? If not, what exactly would be the status of the contract? It would be a contract that hadn't been properly approved by Council, I suppose. It would then be of no legal effect until properly approved, right? And if it was properly approved in short order after being voided, exactly what would be the purpose of having a court void the vote?
Jeff Hales March 14, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I'm glad to know that you concede that the process taken by the council was not proper. A bit more validation can be found if you check out NPR today: "Missouri state auditor releases summary of Sunshine Law violations" http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/morning-headlines-march-13-2012
Lisa Hummel March 14, 2012 at 03:35 AM
Dear George, I thought about making a comment last night, but several citizens who did get up and speak about their concerns about the city manager and the issues surrounding his censure did a very good job of expressing my thoughts. Perhaps I should have spoken as well. In any case, I try to be judicious about the number of comments I make before the board (picking my battles, as it were), in an effort to respect everyone's time, and also because people who get up to speak over and over are (sometimes unfairly) labeled cranks. I realize we are a democracy, but when did public discourse about government become a popularity contest? If even one person has a valid point to make, that point should be given due consideration and respect by the council and those in attendance. Because more people feel one way than another does not mean the minority view has no merit. And I think if you listened to the applause people made for the various statements, there were numerous people in agreement with each side of the issue who chose to make their voices heard that way. They did not feel the need to repeat what had already been said.
citizenu March 14, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Can someone who attended the meeting tell me the purpose of sending letters to the employers of the mangers that filed the complaint? If I'm understanding correctly, they filed their complaint with ICMA conerning Walker's action as part of their group and not to the U City Council. Seems like this is vindictive/sour grapes on the part of a minority of the U City council and may cause friction with neigboring cities. Do we need any more bad press?
George Lenard March 14, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Jeff. I wasn't conceding that the vote was improper, though it may have been. I was saying that if a court found it improper and voided the vote, the contract would also appear to be voided. You didn't disagree. What you didn't say about the Auditors report is how common these violations have been. Of "nearly 300 reports released by the state auditor's office between January 2010 and December 2011" "[n]early twenty percent ... contained one or more Sunshine Law violations. Almost sixty violations? That others did it doesn't make it right, but it puts in perspective.
Kim March 15, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Kudos to Jan Adams for trotting our her supporters to speak on behalf of the Mayor and City Manager. I believe the Council and the Mayor are WELL aware of the position of the "vocal opponents" George mentions. I think it is great that some new voices were heard Monday night, speaking out against the "shenanigans" at City Hall.
Kim March 15, 2012 at 03:13 AM
I share these concerns and would like more information as well.
George Lenard March 15, 2012 at 03:55 AM
I support Jan, but nobody trotted me out. I said the following in the first paragraph of the letter I put into the minutes--and it is true (except my wife read it after I printed it, resulting in no changes): "I speak only for myself; this letter has not been reviewed in advance by anyone else." As far as speaking "on behalf of the Mayor and City Manager," here are a few quotes from my oral statement that could scarcely be characterized as unqualified support: "I disagree with the City's failure, to date, to publicly address the facts leading to the ICMA censure and their relation to the relevant ICMA tenets and guidelines and to Mr. Walker’s contract." "I fear we’re approaching the point at which lack of a strong public response will allow disenchantment to continue to fester and grow, so dysfunctional government becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy." "I feel strongly that a formal decision must be made. Because of the public concern, I think it should not simply be announced as the result of a closed-session personnel vote, but should be accompanied by a public explanation of the reasons behind the majority's decision." "The Council may wish to consider ... measures short of termination as potential means of communicating to the public and Mr. Walker that it takes this matter very seriously, even if it does not view it as grounds for termination." If anyone would like a copy of the statement or much longer letter, just email me at gll@hdfh.com.

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