I posted a blog recently about the Amarillo Animal Control Department troubles and suggested that the verdict may be in on the fate of the two top animal control officials who have been put on “administrative leave.”
Let them go, I argued.
Then I got a comment from someone who said the city manager should take the fall for what’s going on at City Hall.
I’ve been thinking about that and my critic may have opened a possible discussion point that’s worth examining.
What about City Manager Jarrett Atkinson’s time at the City Hall helm? It’s been a bit of a rocky ride over there. Let me stipulate that I’ve known Atkinson for a number of years. I respect his knowledge on key issues, such as water management.
I can count four significant missteps on Atkinson’s watch.
* Airport manager Scott Carr quit his job suddenly in 2010. The circumstances of his departure were a bit mysterious. He left while Atkinson was serving as interim city manager after Alan Taylor had retired. The city paid Carr a substantial amount of money even after he left the city’s employment and Atkinson did not say at the time whether Carr was asked to quit. What gives with that?
* After Taylor Withrow retired in 2011 as city traffic engineer, Amarillo hired a new traffic man who, it turned out, had gotten into some serious trouble at his previous traffic engineer post in Florida. Jihad el-Eid didn’t tell the city about any of that and no one at the city apparently bothered to do its due diligence to check the individual’s work history. It turned out he was indicted in a bribery scandal and he fled Amarillo. The city fired el-Eid and then instituted a stricter vetting process for city employees.
* Amarillo sought in 2013 and early 2014 to develop a new logo. It paid a local public-relations firm to craft the design. The city then rejected the proposal submitted by the firm and turned to a city employee, who submitted a logo proposal. One problem emerged: The logo was a virtual copy of a logo already in use by a private company based in the United Arab Emirates. The firm threatened to sue for copyright infringement. The city, which wrote a letter of apology to the firm, scrapped the logo, then took part in a community-wide contest to produce a new design. Local artist Tyler Mitchell’s proposal was accepted. The city still hasn’t revealed the identity of the employee who turned in the copied logo.
* Animal control officials Mike McGee and Shannon Barlow were placed on administrative leave after officials revealed that abandoned/unwanted/stray animals were being euthanized improperly. The Randall County Criminal District Attorney’s Office is deciding whether to proceed with indictment proceedings in the case; a grand jury is expected to decide any day whether to issue criminal indictments. The city then disclosed that it has revamped its euthanasia policies.
That’s four significant items. All of them occurred while Atkinson has been running the city. Under the city charter, the city manager is in Big Man on Campus at City Hall. He runs everything. The city pays the manager handsomely to have his hands on all the levers, ensuring the city runs well.
These kinds of mistakes shouldn’t have occurred. Are they firing offenses?
Well, I’ll leave that to the City Council decide. The council hires one individual, the city manager, who it entrusts to make all other key personnel and administrative decisions. I do believe, though, that someone on the council needs to start asking the city manager some tough questions about how these mistakes keep occurring.
What’s more, I am trying to imagine these kinds of errors and embarrassments happening on, say, the late John Stiff’s watch. It’s been said Stiff ran an airtight operation at City Hall.
Has the place sprung some leaks?