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City Manager's Blog

Jan 23

City Offers Relief for Federal Employees

Posted on January 23, 2019 at 12:59 PM by Thomas Reeves

At last night’s meeting, the Modesto City Council made the bold move to try and make life a little easier for those directly impacted by the government shutdown.  Based on emergency action taken at the meeting, the city manager has authorized city staff to temporarily suspend late fees and other penalties resulting from late payments of utilities to the city.  This temporary policy is specifically for those current U.S. Government employees that have been and remain furloughed because of the government shutdown.  

We were all hopeful that a federal solution to this critical issue would have been reached before the posting of the January 22 City Council meeting agenda, however, it was determined that furloughed U.S. Government employees would continue to not be paid for the indefinite future.  Thus, an emergency item was presented and adopted by the full council.  

The city of Modesto recognizes that U.S. Government employees provide critical services within and in the surrounding areas of the city.  These services are essential in protecting the health, safety, and welfare of all Modesto residents.  

We recognize the financial constraints placed on these employees, having not received two successive pay chances, may require them to have to choose between paying a utility bill and putting food on their table.  

Therefore, effective immediately, the city is temporarily suspending late fees and other penalties resulting from late payments of utility fees, and will work with residents to ensure a payment plan can be made according to individual circumstances.  This policy will continue until the shutdown has ended, but will be reevaluated in 60 days, should the government not reopen by then.

For questions, and to signal your interest in participating, have your proof of eligibility ready and contact our customer service department at (209) 577-5395.  

This is one small way the city of Modesto is working to reimagine government.
Dec 28

Report: Purchasing Division Investigations

Posted on December 28, 2018 at 3:51 PM by Thomas Reeves

Back in 2017, the city found an unacceptable practice in its purchasing division and, after a series of investigations and process improvements, I’m sharing what is being done to avoid this practice from ever occurring again.  

In a nutshell, over multiple years, different city employees, holding different titles and responsibilities, allowed for a practice of augmenting contracts without required city council approval, which became a repeated chain of events.  

That conduct was unprofessional, irresponsible, and significantly undermined the public confidence in staff, the council, and the city.  In addition to the outright deceptive actions involved in cases where agreements went above council-approved dates and amounts, historical practices and culture created a “Don’t see, don’t tell” attitude, and resulted in employees not taking ownership for the organization.  

City leadership – mostly new at this point – tackled this issue head-on and engaged in a massive review of what occurred and how it will be corrected.  What started as a general review of a limited number of contracts quickly became a much more detailed examination of our processes, and over a thousand additional agreements.  

We hired a team of experts to help with the review and investigation into the city’s purchasing practices to determine how this occurred.  Public Management Group was hired as the project lead and reviewed the city’s internal practices and culture; Hudson Henderson was hired as external auditors to audit the city’s systems; and Armistead Research and Investigative Services was hired to conduct an internal personnel investigation.  

These types of investigations are never fun and always intrusive, and yet, by design, they are a necessary step in the evolution of any organization.  We’re sharing the entire collection of reports below for your review.  We want the community to know what happened and how we’re growing.  At the end of the day, let it be said of this city, it’s not what we did, but how we learned from it, and what we did to ensure it never happens again.

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Dec 20

Two New Faces on the City Leadership Team

Posted on December 20, 2018 at 11:47 AM by Thomas Reeves

I’m excited to announce the appointment of Scotty Douglass and Caluha Barnes, who will be joining the city’s leadership team as Deputy City Managers.  After an extensive nationwide search, these two candidates rose to the top and have signaled their intent to call the City of Modesto home.  

Following Scotty’s military experience, he began his career in public service by working for the City of Santa Cruz as a Police Dispatcher.  The 15 years that Scotty worked at Santa Cruz Regional 9-1-1 afforded him the opportunity to serve in many positions, including with information technology management, human resources, risk management, finance, capital projects, and public safety.  This center provides emergency dispatch and technology services to five cities and two counties (Santa Cruz and San Benito).  Prior to leaving this agency, Scotty facilitated a consolidation of dispatch services from San Benito County into the Santa Cruz dispatch center.  This remains the first and only cross-county local government dispatch consolidation in the State of California, saving the County of San Benito and City of Hollister close to $500,000 annually, and increasing the 911 center’s revenue by $350,000.

Scotty joined Stanislaus Regional 9-1-1 (SR911) Joint Powers Authority as the Executive Director in mid-2016.  At this agency, he was responsible for all aspects of the organization that provides emergency dispatch and public safety technology services to all agencies within Stanislaus County.  Recently, he was given an opportunity at the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency (SASA) as Interim Executive Director, a role he has used to begin a strategic visioning process to be used in the development of a robust business plan.  While overseeing both agencies, Scotty has been responsible for over 90 employees and a combined budget of over $13 million.

Scotty has a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in leadership.  

Caluha Barnes has more than 25 years of experience in the public sector and has worked at every level of government – federal, state, county, city and special district.  A significant part of that time has been in administrative management, budget development and oversight, organizational change management, and process improvement. 

Most recently, Caluha served at the City of Santa Rosa as Director of Community Engagement, where she was charged with implementing recommendations of a Mayor’s Task Force on Open Government.  The Department also staffs a 14-member Charter-directed Community Advisory Board for which she launched the first strategic planning process since the Board’s inception in 2002.  In July of 2018, Caluha assumed the additional responsibility for the Recreation and Parks Department as the Interim Director.

Prior to the experience with the City of Santa Rosa, Caluha held several posts with Sonoma County, first as Administrative Services Director for the Health Services Department, where her responsibilities included human resources, labor relations, and fiscal operations, then as Principal Administrative Analyst, with a departmental portfolio of internal service departments.

For the State of Georgia, Caluha was the Director of Administration for the Secretary of State’s Office where she oversaw human resources, budget development, accounting, payroll, purchasing, supplies and inventory management.  In the state’s Healthcare Licensing Division, Caluha was the Executive Director and principal advisor to seven state licensing boards where she identified and implemented operational improvements, and staffed seven licensing boards in the regulation of over 30,000 licensees.

Caluha holds a master’s degree in public administration.  
In their roles as Deputy City Manager, Scotty and Caluha will act as liaisons to the City Council for many of the high-profile projects from city departments.  Scotty will also act as a critical resource on the city’s performance management, while Caluha will provide oversight on the Strategic Plan and homeless program.  

Both will start on January 8.  Please join me in welcoming them to the team.