Denver Direct: August 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wallach Goes Public

When an article appeared Friday in the Denver Post entitled “Denver parks official, budget adviser in e-mail tiff”, a lively discussion developed in the comments section. On Saturday Mr. Wallach weighed in there himself (presumably).

from the comments section:

This is all (well, almost all) fairly interesting discussion. The reasons I told Chris Osher about the restraining order in the first place were:

1) To get him to finally write something about the rot at the top of the parks department in Denver—parks rank and file employees had tried in vain to get a visit from the mayor or some response from the majority of City Council members to their complaints about the looting of the department by its “managers.”

These employees had decided a direct appeal to the media was their only hope. (The parks department???s stonewalling unfortunately discouraged Chris and another journalist. P and R refused to divulge payroll and other records that are definitively public.) Maybe that will change. (Are you listening, Auditor Gallagher?)

2) To demonstrate publicly the character of Jude O’Connor, who is sadly typical of a half dozen or so top parks administrators, Kevin excepted. It was satisfying to show her and a handful of her dishonest parks cronies that her attempt to intimidate me by getting a judge to, for some unfathomable reason, issue a temporary restraining order, was unsuccessful.

There are many department employees who provided me with some of the excellent (and appalling) analysis I presented to the mayor and other city officials in July. (I had scheduled a preview of this analysis with Kevin Patterson in May of this year, but he canceled our meeting at the urging of Fred Weiss, the departments $120,000-plus financial director, for reasons now obvious

Unfortunately, Jude and her colleagues have imposed their own brand of repression of free speech among parks employees, retaliating with a vengeance against those employees who speak publicly of management’s greed and incompetence.

I have known Kevin for years–he is a decent guy who has made the mistake of believing what Jude and her colleagues in upper management tell him. Kim Bailey made the same mistake, among many, many others, but did not, in my opinion, approach the issues with the same good faith, or understanding of Denver’s park legacy, that Patterson originally did.

The employees who asked me to take their case public would have much preferred, as would I, a more behind-the-scenes house cleaning at parks. The current situation will again unfairly embarrass, as have past department scandals, the many rank and file employees who are proud of their parks system, just not their managers.

(I’m including several long-suffering and amazingly dedicated park superintendents in this group, who had the courage (and the data) to help me make the case).

I assume that the budget recommendations I was paid to analyze and assemble for Mayor Hickenlooper are public records, so any doubters are welcomed to research the basis for my charges to their heart’s content. I hope ultimately members of the news media will join them.

Finally, I should note that I like and respect Mayor HickenlooperI supported him and assisted Michael Bennet and David Kenney in helping craft then-candidate Hickenlooper’s budget position, among others, in the 2003 campaign.

I applaud the mayor’s vision, energy and leadership skills. But I have wished ever since the departure of Michael Bennet as his chief of staff that Hick would hire staffers who take management accountability seriously. I also wish that most City Council members would develop spines, and not be so afraid of the mayor and his 80-percent approval rating.

As for Jude and her cronies who wish to debate, I would be happy to do so, but they need to have the courage to identify themselves, behave as if there is such a thing as the First Amendment, and provide data to support their cases.

Thanks to Mr. Wallach for coming forward. When Hickenlooper’s bureaucrats get restraining orders against his own consultants, he looks foolish or worse, like something is being covered up. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Smoke and Fire at Parks and Rec

What’s going on in Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department? At a meeting of the INC Parks and Rec committee, Larry Ambrose and Cathy Donohue discuss emails from Andrew Wallach regarding “malfeasance”, “fiscal irresponsibility” and “cronyism” to Manager Kevin Patterson.

This morning we have this from the Denver Post:

Denver parks official, budget adviser in e-mail tiff

A top official in Denver's Parks and Recreation Department has received a temporary restraining order against the director of finance under former Mayor Wellington Webb, contending he poses a threat due to e-mails "with a threatening undertone."

Among the e-mails Jude O'Connor filed in support of a restraining order against Andrew Wallach was one Wallach sent to City Council members urging them not to issue a proclamation on O'Connor's behalf when she retires this year as head of the natural-resources division.

Wallach, a former finance director under Webb and former Mayor Federico Peña, said the parks department in the past five years hired 19 managers, a 76 percent increase, while cutting 108 front-line workers.

Wallach said he's trying to protect the city from a department run amok, where he says management has become bloated while front-line workers take the brunt of budget cuts. He added that he has a First Amendment right to speak out.

Patterson, a recent appointee to the position of Manager of Parks and Rec with no parks experience, has been controversial from the beginning. The recent dust-up over the granting of a contract with Poo Free Parks, Inc. and the subsequent withdrawal of that contract is the latest in a series of unsettling events.

Changes to the rules and regulations which would drastically alter the nature of the parks are in the making. "Admission Based Events" at Festival Parks, and "Naming and Renaming Rights", as well as the proposal to change the zoning of all parks to open space with the Manager making all of the decisions, have concerned citizens worried. See for complete details of these proposals.

And BTW, don't get too pushy in your emails or the Department will refuse to work with you and/or get a restraining order against you.

The ruination of Washington Park and City Park lakes with Lowry Landfill toxins is already a done deal. Now we apparently need to sell the naming rights, charge admission to special events in the parks, and get people into those parks to generate income by selling them beer. Can you say "Coors City Park"?