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Menlo Park: Staff vacancy crisis slows city activity

Original post made on Sep 18, 2018

In a deadpan refrain belying deeper urgency, Menlo Park staff reported to the City Council at its last meeting that because of severe staff shortages, "Resources may not be available for progress on important line items."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 18, 2018, 11:56 AM

Comments (33)

Posted by blt
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Sep 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm

Why are none of these positions listed on the city's jobs page? Web Link

Posted by Long-timer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 18, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Those jobs seem to pay well and offer many benefits. Can residents apply, and will the city consider qualified candidates over the age of 35?

Posted by Just an observation
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 18, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Time to evaluate the working conditions and morale at the City of Menlo Park that is keeping these jobs vacant. Ironically, the City Council gave the City Manager rave reviews for hiring good people. Hiring is one thing, retention in another.

Posted by Yes, time to look
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 18, 2018 at 3:20 pm

Yes, it is time to look at the morale in city hall. All sorts of changes, lack of trust of staff and many failed attempts to revive morale.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 18, 2018 at 10:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The only way to avoid having this kind of crisis is to have invested tremendous time, effort and dollars to create and maintain an organization that has very low turnover and high morale and which potential employees seek to join.

There is no short term fix.

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 19, 2018 at 9:40 am

Good question about why the jobs aren't listed on the city jobs page! However, I imagine that Menlo Park, like retail, is competing with high tech for employees. As we all know, it's difficult to live in the Bay Area on a salary that a municipality can pay.

Posted by District 2
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 19, 2018 at 3:46 pm

Need s new city manager. Hers rescued every new assistant manager he asked for

Just doesn’t hire very well

Posted by Ex
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2018 at 7:20 pm

If they paid and treated their employees appropriately they might retain good quality people. Problem is some managers just don’t care and others don’t belong in their positions

Posted by In the know
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 20, 2018 at 7:53 am

The City Manager needs to be let go. He has no idea show to lead, manage and motivate the staff. When the City Mansger says he can’t afford to pay the staff, he means that he chooses not to. He won’t have this tough discussion with the council because he’s not a leader.

The staff needs to be paid comparably to the top cities on the pensinsula. This problem lies directly with the city council who refuse to pay for quality staff.

People will continue to leave. Less qualified people will be brought in and then they will leave.

With the amount of money wasted on recruiting new neighborhoods could have been built by now.

Posted by CityStaff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 20, 2018 at 8:15 am

I feel City Council and the City Manager are largely to blame. The expectations to complete so many projects (ie. maintain status quo) in Public Works despite the proper FTE support is one issue, the second being reasonable pay. While, yes, city staff get paid well when looking at similar jobs throughout the country. The fact is that for trying to live in this area (rent not buy) is near impossible on a manager's salary (not to mention front-line staff). Question: who is picking up the slack of vacant FTEs? Other staff of course, no wonder morale is low (low wages, high work load, high demand for output, and high commute times). It's not like the City doesn't have the money to increase wages enough to make these positions more competitive. How much is in the reserve?

Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 20, 2018 at 10:44 am

@CityStaff: The City Manager already gets assistance (a low cost loan) in securing a local home.

If there is problem in not enough staff to handle a growing backlog, I'd prioritize the rejects and trim off for future reconsideration. If the City Manager, well...

Posted by Bobs your uncle
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 20, 2018 at 12:43 pm

As an ex Menlo Park employee I can tell you that pay is not the issue. Nor is finding qualified applicants as I at one point was responsible for searching through the applicants for the jobs. Laziness at the top for posting and hiring positions is part of it, but the main part is that the city has a horrible reputation from the top down in management. Starting with Alex and some of the other managers that he promotes. The city will struggle to find great people as long as Alex is still in Menlo park

Posted by Crown Rot
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2018 at 12:52 pm

When the top is rotten, the whole tree eventually falls.
Why can't they hire and keep people? Because those in charge have cultivated an horrible work environment!

It's no mystery, it's quite simple and happens to all companies with a bad work environment. Get rid of the lame-Os at the top who are causing this issue.

Posted by Just an observation
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 20, 2018 at 4:51 pm

the City Council were lazy and weren’t willing to admit they made a huge mistake in their hiring choice, instead doubling down on their choice and then and failed in providing oversight on the City Manager. meanwhile the City Manager promoted people equally incompetent as managers and the City earned itself a reputation as a horrible place to work. Disgruntled employees have found work in neighboring Cities,where they are valued and where the HR departments don’t just function to protect the City Manager.

Posted by WakeUpCityCouncil
a resident of another community
on Sep 20, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Residents need to hold City Council accountable. They made a poor choice hiring Alex & instead of owning that and fixing their mistake, they renewed his contract and took the path of least resistance (at the time). Alex has decimated City staff and earned the City a bad reputation which is precisely why recruiting and retaining employees has become a problem of this magnitude. Other cities don't have the same problem, because other cities don't have Alex as their City Manager. Wise up attention...and be accountable to the staff keeping your City afloat and the residents you were elected to serve. It's going to take a long time for the reputation to fade, for morale to improve, and to fill all the vacancies...but the longer you wait to address the root of the issue, the harder it will be to recover.

Posted by Ex Employee
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 21, 2018 at 11:35 am

I am an ex Menlo Park employee as well and I will never work for this organization again. Such a beautiful City with amazing residents and the potential to improve the community and City services. Over the years it pained me terribly to see so many of my colleagues and talented staff walk away (not for pay, not for the commute, as this City's administrators will make you and the Council believe) but for the poor treatment of staff and the lowest morale a government agency could ever have...all at the hands of Upper Management (Alex McIntyre, Chip Taylor, Nick Pegueros). It all started when Alex arrived. He is a City Manager that closes himself off to the organization and surrounds himself with a select few Manager's that share his "Just get S*$# done!" mentality (yes he promoted this at a manager's meeting and it wasn't well-received by everyone). In an organization with less than 300, he didn't even know everyone's name and would walk by without acknowledging you. He also prohibited staff from having family photos on their desks that could be visible to the public and other ridiculous demands/quirks. The annual employee surveys that he had staff complete year after year was a waste of time and never amounted to any change. Perhaps he did this just to say he did it? He also would "shut down" staff when they asked him the tough questions and was often dodgy to avoid potentially contentious interactions. Jim Cogan, the previous Economic Development Manager would often fill in for him at event that Alex found socially awkward. The reason why the City of Menlo Park is having trouble recruiting is because it has garnered a reputation in the Bay Area as having very poor leadership, and yes, again this starts with the top (Alex and Chip Taylor). There is no growth in this organization and unless Alex and the rest of his Club are replaced, the mass exodus of staff will continue. The City of Menlo Park residents deserve the best and the current administration is not cutting it. Ray Mueller was onto something when he was one of the Council Members who chose not to renew Alex's contract. City Council and Residents of Menlo Park, please, please do something about this. You are not told the whole story by Alex, you never were and you deserve better.

Posted by Just an observation
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 21, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Yeah, old news but related to the topic of retaining good staff. Here’s an example of an excellent staff member being treated with disdain by her manager and the city manager. Since this story broke, the manager was promoted! Just one example of what’s so wrong with the way the city of Menlo Park Manager is running things Web Link

Posted by Waiting for positive change
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 21, 2018 at 11:36 pm

To create a harmonious and stable work environment, you need to have a City manager that truly cares about each employee. It takes time to find out about each employee, to talk to them, say hi and complement each individual on a job well done. A great City manager needs to walk around the departments and show his appreciation. Talk to them and find out what project they are working on. Allow them to be individuals and post a photo of a friend or family or pets. Find the employees strength and allow them to thrive, don’t create an environment of cookie cutter work where the employees are restricted in growth and potential. Promote individuals before they leave for a higher position with better pay. Or just leave because they do not feel appreciated,valued or suppressed in their growth. Find out what tools the employees need to help them grow and assist them at their duties. Impersonal online surveys will never make a difference, but a hello and how is your dog or family, will go a longer way than a survey.

Posted by B.H.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 22, 2018 at 2:33 am

With so many vacancies, why hasn’t the City Council done anything about this poor performing City Manager? Do they just take his word for it when he says things are ok? Obviously they are not. These comments are disheartening and make me wonder as a resident, why my City? Menlo Park is supposed to be an innovative community, and with these project and service delays, we are taking costly steps backwards from progress. City Council, you are accountable for this and you made a poor choice in hiring Alex. Please serve the residents of Menlo Park and ensure we are getting a leader representative of what we value most as a community.

Posted by Lynne Bramlett
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 22, 2018 at 8:49 am

Lynne Bramlett is a registered user.

Former and current employees, thank you for posting your concerns. I'm disappointed but not surprised as I didn't buy the "story" regarding staffing shortages. Right now, the City Manager just needs three Council members who are satisfied with his performance to keep his job. This low bar does not serve the residents of Menlo Park as it leads to a City Manager too focused on serving the interests of Council members instead of serving the public good. We have yet to have a meaningful Council discussion related to a Sunshine Ordinance for improved transparency. At the last Council meeting, the discussion on travel seemed designed to keep the issue as contained as possible. We don't have enough safeguards of the public's interest. The public could push for reforms, such as open performance evaluation and 360-degree performance evaluation such as that other cities have implemented. The link provides other examples from the League of National Cities. Web Link

Posted by Camila D.
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 22, 2018 at 3:02 pm

That 360 evaluation of the City administration sounds like a great idea. I agree with the others in that it seems our Council has their blinders on. After starting with the City Manager we should re-evaluate whether the Council needs to be replaced too. Disappointing.

Posted by In the Know
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 23, 2018 at 8:17 am

The concept listed in other comments that the City Manager serves the Coucncil is 100% true. He cares about what they care about so he can keep his job. He doesn’t care about the residents or the employees. This applies to how he manages [poorly] his executive team. They are only there to go along with him and each other. The council is fine without this. Vote in new council members that will direct a new city manager to satisfy the needs of the residents.

Posted by Jacklyn W.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2018 at 7:51 pm

Alex isn't an ogre, and let's be honest: being disliked by Ray Mueller is a positive in my book (talk about "socially awkward", as an earlier comment did). Also, there will always be current and ex employee grumblers, especially on an anonymous blog.

That said, the employee departures really do speak for themselves, as does the absence of any vocal support for Alex from any insiders. At the 6-year mark, when a lot of City Managers see the door for any number of reasons, that alone is a big warning sign.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Sep 23, 2018 at 8:22 pm

I don't know anything about the City Manager but I have been playing basketball with Ray Mueller for years and he is a great guy. He is anything but socially awkward. He has a beautiful family. They have a ton of firends in this town. It’s stupid people can write things like that about him. I guess people will have their grudges in local politics or something.

I couldn’t let that comment go.

Posted by Mr. Rogers
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 23, 2018 at 8:53 pm

Socially awkward?! That comment is hilarious and clearly written by someone who should consider looking into a mirror. Ray has served as officiant and married several people whom I know (even with his ridiculously busy schedule), and you can’t be socially awkward in that role. It a rule :) Dave hit me up and told me about this absurd comment from “Jacklyn W[hatshername]” and I felt compelled to post. I’ve known Ray it feels like since he was in diapers, and one thing is certain: if he were in diapers today, he still wouldn’t act socially awkward. This is not surprising, of course, as he can be seen running around swimming pools in Speedo’s which we all still tease him about. Ray Mueller is an asset to Menlo Park and my good friend, so don’t demean him behind the cloak of the internet. Get a life.

Posted by Just an observation
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 24, 2018 at 10:47 am

Paying a skeleton crew overtime instead of addressing the root problem of poor management and an unwillingness to pay competitive wages to applicants is an issue that needs to be addressed. Once one calculates the amount of overtime the City is paying many current staff they might just find that there are cost saving to making the necessary changes in management and starting pay scale. Overtime pay is costing the City dearly.

Posted by Pot Meet Kettle
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 24, 2018 at 4:07 pm

In the Council-Manager form of city government,the City Council establishes goals and priorities for the City each year. The City Manager's job is to align staff's work plan accordingly.

If the City Manager says he doesn't have the staff to meet those goals or priorities, then his job becomes finding that staff (or contract staff).

And if the City Manager can't do that, then it's time to find a new City Manager. A 15% City-wide vacancy rate suggests that it's time find a new City Manager.

Posted by Retired to get out!
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 24, 2018 at 6:41 pm

Upper management is unqualified! I had been a city employee for many years so I have been through several city managers, Department heads etc. I must say that within the last 3 years the managers hired have not been qualified and seem to get promoted due to the city manager. I was told multiple times that the rank and file employees are all replaceable and a hundred people out there are waiting for my job. I find that not to be true since they have so many openings that can’t be filled. My position has not been filled and now inspections are a week or more out to get a building inspector out to the construction site. Getting rid of most of the upper management will help start getting the city back to a wonderful place to work.

Posted by Ex
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2018 at 10:53 pm

I also am a ex employee of the failing city of Menlo Park. I can tell you first hand that Alex and many other managers are toxic to work with and for. It’ is a good start that Arlinda left as she was basically absent from her position at best. Many what I consider “life long managers like Ron Lafrance are also non existent. Theses people have been with the city for so long that they want to continue to conduct City police as they did ten years ago, to them change is bad as then they might have to work for their jobs. People within the city who should be promoted aren’t and therefore they leave to go to other city agencies. I’ve seen people get managers positions and they have no business getting them as they don’t have the knowledge to preform as a manager. In Menlo Park it’s not what you know it’s who you know. This problem isn’t going away any time soon unless they weed out the bad and or old non committed managers, and I can tell you Building and HR are full of them. On the up side a great replacement was made when Arlinda left and Mark Munzer took her position.

Posted by Randy Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2018 at 10:00 am

City govt at it's finest. I dont know any of the people working for the City govt, but I can tell you that whenever I have to interact with any of them, the pool, the recreation area, the gym - wherever it is, I dont get a warm welcome, any sense of knowledge that they know what they are doing or care what they are doing.
Maybe a staff meeting to let people know "You are working for the community, their taxes are paying your salary, treat them with respect, courtesy and pride."

Posted by Lselkins
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2018 at 12:54 pm

Wow. What an illuminating thread. My son just graduated from UC with a history degree and could certainly fill one of these staff vacancies, if any were posted! Since he is living at home, housing costs are not an issue. However, after reading the description of the toxic working environment, never mind.

Posted by Enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 26, 2018 at 12:48 pm

Some of us warned the City Council not to hire Alex in the first place.
He was basically booted out of his previous job as city manager in Lake Oswego, Oregon. As my memory serves, he was pushing a hefty project there to build a streetcar line from Lake Oswego to Portland--for hundreds of millions of dollars. The community didn't want this boondoggle, and it resulted in several council members being removed and the city manager being kicked out.
Yet, our City Council embraced him, and never looked back.
I pity Ventura...

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 26, 2018 at 2:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It will be a great opportunity to see a number of local jurisdictions select new City/Town Managers at the same time since they tend to form a little clique amongst themselves which can either raise or lower their standard of performance.

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