Secrets of the City of Port Orange from a City Hall Insider

Submitted on 2015/12/04 at 9:36 pm by Don Juan Matus ……

I find it interesting that our new city manager announced at a council meeting shortly after his first week on the job that he intended to shut down the read file, a tradition of transparency and open governance that was instituted by the city council and Ken Parker years ago in order to permit 60,000 citizens access to observe the workings of city hall as it relates to taxpayer money and public interests.
Mr. Johansson clearly stated on POG television that he is an advocate of open governance but that he shut down the read file in order to capture the cost of the time it took the city clerk to review about a dozen emails daily to determine if their was any restricted content before posting them to the read file.
If we as citizens accept this bullshit answer and our elected officials continue to permit him to do this without any resistance we might as well face the fact that we are heading towards a very bleak future in city governance. That is unless Ted Noftall is elected as mayor in 2016.
Everyone knows that the typical content of the city managers emails as it relates to restricted material can be read and evaluated in a matter of minutes, and to be very generous could not take more than an hour a day. At $30 an hour that could not be more of a labor outlay of around $200 a week for supplying 60,000 residents access to participating in transparent governance, as well as communication with the city manager’s office in real time.
When the read file was in effect, any F.O.I. requests were still subject to a nominal charge and were paid for by those individuals requesting the information. Nothing has changed in that respect and the same costs were recaptured before the read file was shut down.
Presently, Mr. Nelan requests the contents of the city manager’s read file as an F.O.I. on a weekly basis. These emails still have to be reviewed by the city clerk to evaluate whether their is any sensitive material. Mr. Nelan obviously has to pay for the information in the F.O.I.’s after the city clerk reviews them and receives the manager’s emails a week later. The fact that they are not received in real time makes their content old news and defeats the purpose of viewing and interacting with the process at city hall in real time. I am sure that citizen activists and concerned citizens are more than willing to collectively foot the bill that Mr. Nelan is charged for these week old emails that also need to be reviewed by the city clerk so why not just send the city the money to reinstate the read file and pay the city that same money instead of paying for the same information each week as an F.O.I. and receive it a week later. That would be the same cost and would invalidate the only tangible reason that Johannson had for eighty-sixing the read file which was recapturing the daily cost of reviewing the emails for sensitive content. This would call his bluff and see if he is truly an advocate of open governance.
Not providing these emails in real time on the read file also retards the process of interacting with the manager and receiving important answers to questions in real time. This is consistent with the new manager’s opaque strategic communication agenda.
A classic example of this is when the city manager recently facilitated individual meetings with each council member, the utility director, and an engineer from Arcaidis Consulting Engineering to persuade them to vote yes at an upcoming council meeting to approve several million dollars worth of task authorizations for master planning development and I&I projects.
This was done behind closed doors and without the knowledge or consent of the taxpayer or dedicated city activists in spite of the fact that a transparent workshop was planned to vet these grandiose requests out in an open forum subject to the scrutiny and introspection of the city council and the citizens of Port Orange. When these tape painting back door meetings failed to realize the objectives of the manager, his utility director, and the preferred engineering consultant the transparent public workshop was summarily canceled by the city manager.
This nonsense really has to stop as well as the wholesale disregard for civil service rules by the city manager’s office and a majority of his newly vetted senior management team as regards the rights of the city workforce. These rights violations are consistent with the new city manager and his inner circle rebuilding a special interest dynasty in the similitude of that which Greg Kisela attempted when he tried to reconstruct the Parker Shelley model which caused an organizational implosion recently. We should not be moving backward into an opaque form of special interest government but we should become evermore transparent moving toward the future. We need to revisit the city manager shutting down the read file and if a workshop is truly needed in Port Orange, it should be a workshop on what the citizens of Port Orange expect their elected officials to promulgate regarding open and transparent governance.


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