Sunday Notes July 20th 2014


Lots of Questions.…..Not many answers so far.

I’m referring to the possible “restructuring” of the City Manager’s Office. Is there one?

So far nothing is on the City Council Agenda and the Manager hasn’t responded or publicly shared a plan but let’s look at we know and what we don’t know.

We do know that the City Budget for 2015 was approved June 16th that saw the Manager’s Office listed with an Assistant to the City Manager -Director of Neighborhood Sevices – CFO- Data Analysis-Executive Admin. Asst and Admin. asst positions listed and funded.

We know that 3 weeks later on July 7th the Sun informed us that Mike McGovern a longtime political operative and Greater Lowell Tech’s coordinator of school information/school foundation resigned from the Tech to go to work for the Murphy Administrative according to Greater Lowell Superintendent Roger Bourgeois.

We know that on July 9th Manager Murphy named Conor Baldwin as the city’s new chief financial officer and appointed Diane Tradd as the assistant city manager/director of the Department of Planning and Development and we know that will assume their new roles beginning tomorrow July 21 (but we don’t know at what salary.)

What we also know is in the budget just approved Ralph Snow is the DPW Commissioner and Assistant City Manager. With the announcement of Diane Tradd that would seem to fill the 2 Asst. Manager positions.

What we don’t know is – when McGovern ends his time at the Tech, when he starts working for the city or what position he will take with the Murphy Administration.

We don’t know why the City Manager has a posted job opening for an Assistant City Manager at a salary of $87,309.68 (min) to $102,552.35(max); Per City Ordinance.

Is Ralph Snow leaving or getting stripped of the title? Is Henri Marchand getting reassigned? Is Mike Demaris retiring and Henri getting slid to that position?

According to today’s Column Blog which for the first time in a week mentions anything about a posting for the job Manager Murphy told The Column the position is not new, but a new title for the “assistant to the city manager” position held by Henri Marchand.

So the Manager is hiring a 3rd Asst. City Manager or changing a job title just 3 – 4 weeks after presenting a budget that included a 3.5% tax increase with a notation that The FY15 Budget submission for the Office of the City Manager represents an overall decrease of $322,783 (-6.2%) over the FY14 approved budget. Due to staffing changes in the office, salaries were decreased by $22,853. One administrative position in the Manager’s Office has been eliminated from the FY15 budget, which was newly added in FY14.

What we don’t know is why the Manager has nothing on the City Council Agenda this week about any type of reorganization and why he is advertising a position that 3 weeks ago wasn’t in the presented budget. Why is the position for the Asst. City Manager only worth advertising for 6 days? from July 15th – July 20th. That is only 4 work days and 2 weekend days. Does that give the general public a fair chance to apply or is it done to keep away people and discourage them from applying?

What we do know is after Tuesday because of the Summer Schedule, the City Council doesn’t meet again until August 12th, 3 weeks away.

We don’t know why there is such a delay in explaining to the public and presumably the Council what is going on.

Why advertise for a position that presently doesn’t exist? Is someone retiring or being reassigned or demoted? Is is fair to Henri Marchand, Ralph Snow, Mike Demaris and Mike McGovern to let people speculate about their jobs?

Does the Council need to approve or at least be notified of a change? I recall the former Manager had to get approval to re-instate the Asst. to the Manager position after the Council who didn’t like the guy who had the job, eliminated the funding since they could not fire him themselves.

How many of the current City Councilors are aware about what changes are being planned and why doesn’t the public know? Especially when some political buzz words such has TRANSPARENCY AND OPEN GOVERNMENT are tossed around regularly by the Mayor and a certain weekday radio talk show host?

I expected a smoother, well orchestrated, professional roll-out of a new City Administration Team. This seems not well thought out or rolled out and allows for too much speculation.

What happened to the Fiscal Watchdog who pledged Transparency and stated he wasn’t a rubber stamp?

2013 Re-Election article in the Lowell SUN:(Bold Mine)

I do my homework, am prepared for meetings, and I’m not a rubber stamp,” said Elliott. “That’s how I’m going to proceed with my ninth term, if reelected, to continue to make our city government more open and more transparent, reminding everyone our city manager works for us, not the other way around.

This is what we are used to the past few years, a City Councilor who challenges the administration, a self-proclaimed, self-promoting Fiscal Watchdog.

Remember this Budget meeting stances by Councilor Elliott?

The Sun 1/5/11
During budget deliberations, Elliott suggested an across-the-board cut of 2.5 percent to every line item
“At least I walk the walk,” Elliott said. “When I campaign, when I say we need to reduce taxes and cut spending, that is what I do. Just speak the truth

Yet in 2014 Elliott called for only a $25,000 cut in a $334 Million Dollar Budget that Included the largest one time Tax Hike in the past 7 years.

Do you recall this tirade against the former CFO? Councilor wants ethics probe into treasurer hiring

Yet he himself hires his friend of over 30 years who he worked with for former Sen. Phil Shea.

During the same situation involving the Treasurer , The Sun ran a story that included this: Elliott said the names and resumes of candidates considered finalists could be released after the new treasurer is hired to ensure public confidence in the hiring process.

After City Manager Murphy named a full time CFO and DPD Director , the Sun story stated: Baldwin and Tradd were the best of five candidates interviewed for each position, said Murphy, who became city manager in mid-April.

So why isn’t Mayor Elliot now demanding the names and resumes of candidates considered finalists who were also interviewed to ensure public confidence in the hiring process?

Why isn’t he or any other City Councilor asking publicly about a Job Posting for a 3rd Asst. City Manager?

How come Transparency goes out the window all of a sudden for the Mayor? Maybe it changes when the City Manager says about you “It’s like my little brother got elected Mayor”

I know we are in a different time in Lowell Politics. Instead of attacking the City Manager and his administration for anything and everything, the Sun for a change is for the most part ignoring this administration. They are not questioning a post for a 3rd Asst. even after the Manager tells them the position is not new, but a new title for the “assistant to the city manager” position. They also aren’t asking why certain positions get posted for over 20 days and others for only 6, or are they no longer paying attention? They don’t seem to care at all what this administration is or isn’t doing. (Preoccupied with an impending sale to a local group perhaps?)

Could it be they are in so tight with a couple councilors and this Manager that we are seeing coverage like we saw in the days of John Cox (Friend of Campy). If Bernie Lynch tried hiring a 3rd Asst, without Council approval headlines and negative ninny’s led by JC and RE and company would be ranting on and on. Now no one says boo.

Who knows maybe its better for the public to not know or care and for Councilors to either be not informed or play dumb and claim they don’t know. Maybe the Manager has told them but he doesn’t feel he has to inform the public.

Why not inform the public? Isn’t that being transparent and providing open Gov’t?

Maybe the SUN is so busy trying to stay alive and trying to be sold that they don’t care about covering the politics of government anymore, maybe they are just giving the new Manager a free ride after spending so much of the past 3 years kicking the crap out of the Lynch Administration and the Manager himself..time will tell.

Speaking of posted positions, it was pointed out to me that the City of Lowell seems to not have much rhyme or reason when it comes to posting open City positions. For example looking at some job postings this past week on the City website:

Assistant City Solicitor Position is Posted July 2 – July 23rd (22 days including weekends and 1 Holiday)
Energy Manager Pos. is advertised from July 9th – July 18th (10 days, including weekends)
The Director of Economic Development is Posted July 2nd – July 16th (15 days including weekends and 1 Holiday)
The Asst. Manager Position only posted for 6 (including 2 weekend days)

Maybe the Council should direct the Manager to have the HR Dept. settle on 10 or 14 working days to post all jobs in the City to ensure things don’t look predetermined and everyone has the same opportunity to apply for any position.

There is a story in today’s SUN Style Section titled: Charging the phone is a challenge – All about Warren Shaw’s challenge with his new phone that we mentioned yesterday (or maybe not but read it yourself to find out)

RIP Jim Gardner – Maverick , Rockford and Mariette Hartley’s partner in some clever Polaroid commercials. He was one of the best character’s on Television.


1 thought on “Sunday Notes July 20th 2014

  1. Pingback: | Lowell Week in Review – July 20, 2014

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