Updated, 7:43 p.m.: PDF added.
NORWALK, Conn. — Mayor Harry Rilling’s goal of reorganizing Norwalk’s administrative positions by July 1 is not realistic, multiple Common Council members said Wednesday.
Common Council President John Kydes (D-District C) has formed a special Committee to consider Rilling’s reorganization request but on Wednesday the Personnel Committee met to grill Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney on the topic, with Doug Hempstead (R-District D) asking for information and, in frustration, suggesting that he might put in a Freedom of Information Act request to get it.
“I am just looking for the information that somebody came up with a flowchart for,” Hempstead said to Burney. “I am not picking on you… I feel as a Council member, and I can say after 24 years, this is one of the maybe two or three times I felt as a Council member that I have been totally disrespected, and I am not saying by an individual but by a process.”
“I don’t think that information is being deliberately withheld from you,” Burney replied, explaining that Rilling and Kydes were working to set the agendas for the Ad Hoc Committee meetings where the information will be walked through.
Personnel Committee Chairwoman Faye Bowman (D-District B) said the entire Council should have the information and, “We are not afraid of paper.”
Kydes felt the initiative needed a special Committee, Burney said at the outset of the meeting, with July 1 set as an implementation date to coincide with the beginning of the fiscal year.
“Changes like this, the longer they sit around, the more stale they become,” he said, explain that the Ad Hoc Committee will meet Monday if the agendas are worked out.
If Rilling and his staff had been working on this for nine or 10 months, it should have been brought up during the budget process, not eight weeks before the beginning of the fiscal year, Hempstead said.
“Tell me any corporation, that is not going bankrupt, or any government that has gone through total reorg of its management in eight weeks or less, that requires bodies to sign off, funding, etc. etc. and creating of job descriptions,” Hempstead said.
There are drafted job descriptions but they won’t be released, except through the Ad Hoc Committee process determined by Kydes and Rilling, Burney said.
Hempstead handed out some research on ways to reorganize government and said, “This may all be right but all I have heard about this is this was based on kind of New Haven. So I don’t know what made New Haven right.”
“It was not based on just New Haven,” Burney said. “We looked at all of the major cities in Connecticut… We conferred with a handful-plus of the Mayor’s senior managers in the city, discussed what the city does, how it is currently set up, how it could be better set up. Took from the other cities that we looked at, some leads, some examples. Looked at what the city of Norwalk does and doesn’t do well and put together what we think is the more efficient, an organization that will better serve the needs of the city’s residents, dollar for dollar.”
Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) asked for backup materials.
“It doesn’t seem at all realistic that this is a process that can take place in eight weeks,” she said. “… I think that’s what has everybody really stepping back and really wanting to know what’s going on here?”
She suggested that the changes could be implemented over a period of time, but Burney replied that Rilling had presented it as a complete package.
Nick Sacchinelli (D-At Large) suggested that maybe the changes wouldn’t be made for the coming fiscal year.
Finance Committee Chairman Greg Burnett (D-At Large) asked how efficiencies would be measured because, “It shouldn’t be just a gut feel, it should be clear.”
“We need real measurements so that we can justify whether we have true efficiency. That’s not going to happen overnight,” Burnett said. “… I think the concern is the timeframe that we are expected to get all of this data, massage it, feel good about it and then vote on it by July 1.”
Beth Siegelbaum (D-District C) agreed and Burney went on to comment that there’s no organization chart for city employees, that the first thing he did when he began work here was look for it only to find out there was none.
“This is just to take a look at the 625 city employees and how they fit into the structure under the Mayor’s guidance,” he said, explaining that reorganizing Boards and Commissions would mean “We’d be here forever” and “I think that is going to be chapter two of this exercise.”
Smyth asked how many direct reports Rilling has, and Burney repeated the previous information that it’s more than 20, with the plan reducing it to seven or nine, as the Chief of Staff and Corporation Counsel are over the seven Chiefs.
“I mean, 20 direct reports is a recipe for miscommunication and chaos,” Smyth said. “I mean it just makes sense, it makes sense looking at it.”
Burney said he didn’t want to use HR jargon but, “It’s a span and control exercise.”
“If your span of control is too big, you have poor communications, poor decision making, you get frustration, you get people making decisions that are outside of the direction that the organization wants to go into,” Burney said. “So your span of control has to be somewhat manageable and if you take a look at some of the relative experts out there, they will tell you that 20 is way too much, and that seven begins to get to be the envelope. We think this may not be perfect but certainly a little bit better as far as funneling information, funneling resources up and down the food chains here.”