There are times I feel like Paul Harvey..getting to provide the readers/citizens of Lowell with the rest of the story from what appears in the Sun.
AFter following the story of what I perceived has a disgruntled city employee in the Sun , it seemed to me that the Sun was viewing this sealer of weights and measures inspector controversy has another opportunity to attack the City Manager and make it a Cox Vs. Lynch thing.
First off I have always thought this whole Cox vs. Lynch was a stupid, time wasting endeavor. Aside from being the guy who followed Cox, Bernie Lynch had absolutely NOTHING to do with Cox getting shown the door. Cox’s financial ineptitude is what drove him out has City Manager just like his greed for free trips/dinners drove him out of the Legislature.
I don’t always agree with the Manager’s actions on some issues and when I write about them, I respect the fact he takes the time and makes the effort to respond to state his view. I also appreciate the fact he is willing to respond to emails I send. We agree to disagree on some things (I think he needs to get rid of the person in charge of the Library and to put trash barrels back for FREE in the neighborhood business districts) but I Thank him for writing and allowing me to post his responses.
The fact that Cox is/was an alleged Saratoga racetrack buddy with the Editor of the Sun explains the Editor’s disdain for the current Manager. The Editor seems to want to use a new young reporter has his pit bull to express his biased view and constantly attack the Manager instead of a seasoned, objective and award winning reporter who didn’t write the slant the Editor wanted. (That is just my opinion)
Anyway I emailed the Manager yesterday and ask him if he would care to take the time to explain the whole Sealer of Weights and Measures controversy and any information about Mr. Hynes he could share.
I was unaware the Sun was writing a story and in today’s Sun Lyle Moran has a story titled “ Inspector: Lynch ‘insane’ for paying him unemployment
The Manager just responded to my request, along with some reference to the article in today’s Sun.
I wrote a long e-mail to you last night but decided to wait until today to see the story that Lyle Moran was writing regarding the Sealer of Weights and Measures position. As you know the individual, Mr. John Hynes, who had/has held that position and function was placed on paid administrative leave as we complete an investigation of his work.
Unfortunately, and as I had feared, the Sun article on this issue is less than an accurate account of the situation. I’ve forwarded a copy of my last e-mail with Lyle on this matter which makes a number of points very clear but are ignored in the story. Let me hit upon a number of these points that are distorted within the story.
The story indicates that we didn’t have a plan in place for someone else to conduct the required inspections and that I said I had “made a mistake in not having an immediate back-up.” Both of these statements are untrue. First, we were prepared in January to have the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG) come in to perform the service but there clearly wasn’t a need since we already had Mr. Hynes in place.
Perhaps a description of the entire matter would be helpful.
• In June of 2010 we included a Sealer of Weights and Measures position within the budget but only for 25 hours per week instead of the 35 that had previously been paid. This determination of the hours was based upon a review of the work output of Mr. Hynes and the time necessary to conduct an inspection. Interestingly, NMCOG has recently indicated that 25 hours per week is about right for the City based upon their services to other communities across the region. I should note that this change in hours saved the City about $10,000 per year.
• Upon passage of the budget Mr. Hynes and his union were notified of the reduction in hours and given the opportunity to discuss. These matters can be drawn out and grieved so we were certainly willing to look at options. Despite Mr. Hynes claim to the contrary we were advised that he planned to retire in December and asked that he be able to retain his full time schedule until that time in order to retain current earning levels and increase his pension. We consented in order to avoid further dispute and determined that he could be used for other functions. The agreement was not documented as there hadn’t been any settlement per se and it is questionable to how binding it could be. And, frankly, we trusted that the employee would act appropriately and we could accommodate his wishes with little negative impact to the City.
• In December, when approached about retiring, we were advised that “he had changed his mind.” We responded to this in a letter by reducing his hours to eight per week based upon the funds left in the budget for this position (6 months at 35 hours per week and 6 months at 8 hours per week). Additionally, based upon Mr. Hynes output it was clear that the same level of work could be handled with 17 less hours per week. And, in fact there has been little difference in output with the reduction.
• At that time Mr. Hynes filed for unemployment. He is eligible. However, for the period in question the cost of 8 hours per week plus unemployment is still $11K less than 25 hours per week plus benefits. So, less cost and same productivity.
I was asked about the issue of unemployment on WCAP in the context of terminating the current Sealer. I responded hypothetically that under the circumstances it was unclear if there would be any termination and that I didn’t see unemployment as being made available if a termination for caused occurred. Mr. Hynes called in soon after and noted that he was already receiving unemployment a fact that I did not know. So, subsequently in the following week I verified all this information and noted that my comment were on the hypothetical not the current situation of which I was clearly unaware.
• In April we were notified by the state agency that works with the Sealers that they did not believe Lowell’s work could be handled by an 8 hour week employee. I don’t disagree however, we were caught in this collective bargaining/personnel/financial situation that we wanted to change with the new fiscal year. We think there are more devices that should be checked but that requires aggressive work that was clearly not being done and needed to be changed.
• In addition, the state noted that they could begin providing inspections and bill the City for the service. This is actually the preferred option in many communities so, in our letter of response and rebuttal we asked for information on making such a move. To my knowledge we have not yet received a response.
• In the FY12 budget we were quite clear that we were moving to a regional solution by joining with neighboring communities via NMCOG for the Sealer service. The cost comparisons are as follows:
•25 hours $45,000 est
•35 hours $55,000 est
In addition, to being the least expensive option NMCOG offers what we believe to be superior service which should result in increased revenue. By way of example, it appears that the former Sealer, who was part-time collected more fees than the current Sealer. If NMCOG could duplicate that performance we should have positive results.
• In making the final decision regarding utilizing NMCOG we again reviewed Mr. Hynes output and job performance. As a result we became more clear of the proper direction and also determined that paid administrative leave was warranted as we wrap up our review based upon some of our findings.
• Had our findings been different Mr. Hynes would have been assigned other responsibilities in accordance with the union contract but in our opinion at the 8 hours per week.
I trust that this gives a bit more detail to the situation. In short we anticipate less cost and more revenue and improved service to the consumers. Unfortunately, personnel issues in the public sector are never simple nor easy. I can assure you that there are no “personal” reasons for my decisions. The manner in which Mr Hynes was retained during tough fiscal times and accommodated when asking to maintain a full time schedule should be proof of this.
Additionally, the notion that I select personnel to affect by who appointed them is truly absurd. There are numerous examples of personnel hired by my successor and other CM’s that I have retained and count among my closest advisors.
As always thanks for the opportunity to get this information out.