Fill a cultural affairs vacancy, pronto. Work harder on curbing violence and connecting kids to social services.
Those were two concrete suggestions Mayor John DeStefano made in the latest round of supervisory evaluations for top City Hall managers, department heads and mayoral aides.
The annual evaluations, completed in December and January, were released to the Independent Friday. The mayor evaluated seven top coordinators; those staff in turn evaluated their supervisees.
Some mayoral appointees, like economic development chief Kelly Murphy and social services czar Chisara Asomugha, received concrete feedback. But amid a simultaneous theme of encouraging more administration “transparency,” many of the evaluations were devoid of concrete, forthcoming feedback that the public can view.
The evaluations used to remain out of the public eye. Then the city lost a Freedom of Information Commission case filed in 2004, and now must release the forms to the public by request. As a result, Mayor DeStefano revised the evaluations to include less information. Workers are now graded as “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory,” and must simply initial that they have discussed their performance across 11 categories, which range from from “job knowledge” and “self-management” to “customer service” and “ethics and government.”
Based on who’s doing the evaluations, some of the documents offer detailed, specific insight into how public servants are serving the public and how they can do better, in their bosses’ eyes; while others leave out any specific information or reflection of what the bosses are really thinking.
In light of the FOI decision, Chief Administrator Rob Smuts does not leave written comments on the evaluations he performs for his supervisees. He gave a satisfactory rating to all—including the fire chief, head librarian, city engineer, and the directors of parks, human resources, public safety communication, public works, and sustainability—without leaving any written mark of their strengths or weaknesses. (He explained last year, in this story, that he doesn’t feel bound by the spirit of the state Freedom of Information Commission’s “ridiculous” decision forcing the evaluations to be available to the public.) DeStefano, on the other hand, has taken the process more to heart the past few years (examples here and here).
Click here to read the evaluations. (Some, such as in the Economic Development Administration and Corporation Counsel’s office, were not available as of press time.)
Police Chief Dean Esserman was not evaluated because he just started his job in November, according to mayoral spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton. The evaluation for Superintendent Reggie Mayo was not available as of press time.
As an evaluator, DeStefano offered the most concrete recommendations for his staff.
“I know you feel stressed, you point that out,” he wrote to Murphy, who’s been the economic development administrator for six years.
He recommended she “fill vacancies ASAP.”
The only current vacancy under Murphy is the director of the cultural affairs department. The job was posted online after Barbara Lamb left.
DeStefano told Asomugha, who has led the city’s Community Services Administration for two and a half years, that the success of her department’s initiatives over the past year has been “mixed.”
“I think areas in which you feel comfortable such as public health and homelessness advance more aggressively,” the mayor wrote. “Co[n]versely other areas—violence and BOOST seem more uneven.”
Boost! is the city’s initiative to build so-called “wraparound services” at schools to tend to kids’ social-emotional needs.
To City Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden, DeStefano noted: “Sometimes the work load seems a bit much.” He said Bolden needs to manage having “too much on your plate.”
Several other evaluations focused on a need to communicate better—with the public, and with a new coalition of aldermen who just took office in January.
“You are going to have to spend considerable time re-educating and talking to lots of new actors,” DeStefano advised Murphy.
“We all need to focus on how we can better communicate,” he told Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts. “To other elected officials, to the public. And what strategies and tactics we employ to do this.”
DeStefano gave “very good” marks to his chief of staff, Sean Matteson. “Related to our 2012 Agenda, we need to do much better in the execution of communicating our message,” he added.
Matteson in turn dispatched Elizabeth Benton, the mayor’s new spokesperson, to help do that in three ways: through “social media messaging,” “proactive messaging,” and “effective use of the mayor in message delivery.”
“Advance planning is critical,” Matteson advised, “so take the time to clearly think things through about the timing and delivery of the message at the moment and how it fits in with the overall themes we are trying to communicate.”
He told Benton she’s off to a good start: “Your first few months in the position have suited you well. You have a good eye for detail and enjoy the debate of substantive issues as well as those issues of process.”
Advice For Newcomers
Communication will be key for Joe Clerkin as he steps into the new role of budget director, DeStefano wrote. As the city braces for a difficult financial year, he advised Clerkin to find ways to adopt more transparency.
“Your work is good,” DeStefano told Clerkin. “That said, think about how it’s read by the public. How do we make the product readable and transparent?”
He suggested Clerkin take a look at the city’s budget reports and how well they convey information.
He said Clerkin is starting off well. “Being a self-starter—always open to new ideas and approaches is key,” he said. “That was a strength of [longtime budget director] Frank [Altieri]‘s.”
Matt Smith (pictured) will be another key player as City Hall navigates a new relationship with a the supermajority on the Board of Aldermen. Smith, a former East Rock alderman, joined City Hall last fall after losing a primary battle for his seat. His job is to serve as a liaison between the mayor’s office and the board.
Matteson urged him to “seek out and build relationships with new board members” and “engage the board at every level in everything we do.”
Caprice Taylor-Mendez, who took over the youth department last fall, “appears on the right track and is motivated,” reported her boss, Asomugha.
Under the topic “self-management,” she left the following comments: “Have discussed punctuality and resources available to support professional development. Clearly motivated leader who capitalizes on her strengths in order to get the job done.”
Taylor-Mendez has “put effort into identifying gaps and strengths of department,” Asomugha wrote. She said Taylor-Mendez must now craft an “overall vision” for youth services in the city, a process which is “currently in its infancy.”
Marjan Mashhadi, who’s been the director of labor relations for less than one year, has her work cut out for her, Matteson wrote.
She dived into the job at a time when the city is negotiating new contracts with most of its 13 unions. Matteson instructed her to put special focus on three of those: fire, police, and AFSCME Council 4 Locals 884 and 3144.
“You are handling your baptism by fire well to this point,” Matteson told her. “Juggling tasks and maintaining sanity with multiple labor contracts under negotiation and/or arbitration is a hefty task for a person with several years in the position let alone an individual new to the job. To date the position agrees with you and I like what I see in the way you approach the work.”
“Lost Without You”
Matteson had high praise for the behind-the-scenes women who make the mayor’s office run.
“I also understand that the position, as the entry point to government and the Mayor, puts you in the direct line of fire for some angry individuals from across the country—especially when the Mayor talks about immigration,” he wrote to receptionist Maria Cruz. “You do your job well and stay cool under trying situations that would frazzle a lesser person.”
“My appreciation for you work cannot be expressed easily,” Matteson wrote to Patricia Lawlor, who’s been an executive administrative assistant for 32 years.
“Just continue to do what you have done so well for the Mayor these past years,” he instructed Rosemarie Lemley (pictured), who has served as the executive administrative assistant to DeStefano for all 18 years of his term, and worked for the city another 10 before that.
“The Mayor, as everyone else, would be lost without you.”