How often do we tell our kids to listen to that internal compass, that little voice that says "heads up. Something doesn't make sense"?
Since I became mayor last year, I've met with city employees and talked about the importance of accountability, transparency and ethics. I've also met with a number of residents to discuss their insights concerning the city.
Through these conversations, I became aware of a range of public safety and operational issues. These concerns, which I shared with the City Council, warranted an independent, comprehensive review of the public works and building departments of our organization.
In March 2012, the Council and I authorized the hiring of the law firm Sidley Austin LLP to conduct this analysis. They interviewed past and current employees, and reviewed hundreds of thousands of city records, policies and procedures.
In the course of their review, Sidley and Austin LLP identified longstanding public safety and operational issues.
As you know, we took immediate action as public safety findings were made available. These included the closure of the City-owned Port Clinton garage and fire sprinkler replacement, the closure of the Highland Park Theater due to building and fire safety risks, and the accelerated fire hydrant maintenance and testing schedule that you heard about last spring and summer. Also, we now have a new City Manager, Deputy City Manager and Director of Public Works from outside our organization.
At Monday night's City Council meeting, Dave Knapp, our new City Manager, presented a list of recommended actions to the public (click here and scroll to 16:00 to view his report). Dave outlined options that he and the City Council will consider adopting to ensure that the City's culture is transparent and responsive to the City Council, residents and businesses, improving upon our municipal government functions and efficiencies.
- Limit the use of no-bid and emergency contracts
- Enforce the City's policy on employee use of City equipment
- Update and enforce compliance with the City's policy on secondary employment and conflicts of interest
- Promote accountability by safeguarding employee freedom to voice concerns without fear of reprisal
- Provide as needed outside oversight of building inspection and fire-safety inspection services; reinstate the Fire Marshall position in the 2013 budget
- Ensure adequate training and certification of building inspectors
- Increase oversight and enforcement when building problems remain unaddressed
- Establish an internal auditor function
- Insist upon the provision of complete and accurate information to the City Council
Inscribed over the doors at City Hall reads the City Motto:
"The salvation of the community is the watchfulness of the citizen."
Thank you to those who came forward, who shared concerns and who persevered until action was taken.
Highland Park Mayor