Thursday, October 14, 2010

Not Your "Average Joe"

At the October 7 Board of Supervisors meeting, the supervisors came to final agreement on a new contract for our township manager, Joe Dunbar. Supervisors Chris DiPaolo and Don Thomas were appointed back in March of this year to conduct negotiations with Joe, but it is my understanding that it took them until August to even begin the process. 

Conscious of the financial limitations that the Township and its residents are facing, Joe offered to take no increase for 2011 and, as reported in the Times Herald, asked for a three-year contract with no additional benefits. I was a supervisor when Joe's original five-year contract, which expired Sept. 1, was negotiated. The original contract had a provision for accrued comp time above 90 hours per pay period, to be payable only upon termination, resignation, or retirement. Otherwise, it would go unpaid. This is a fairly standard option in employment agreements for executive personnel.

This new contract they came up with was a bit different. What's perplexing to me is this: why would Chris, who I understand was the lead negotiator, present a contract to his fellow Board members that calls for a payout of the comp time now, especially in these tight economic times?

Chris ultimately voted against the final version of the contract he negotiated. Now, I may be biased, since I've negotiated all kinds of contracts with all kinds of entities as a large part of my job for more than fifteen  years, but for Chris to arrive at a set of terms and conditions that he felt comfortable enough presenting to the Board and having their solicitor put in writing, only to then turn around and vote against it, makes it patently obvious to me that either Chris isn't a very good negotiator or he's running for re-election next year and wanted to be seen as not voting for any expenditures.  Or, quite possibly, both. 

He's quoted in the paper, citing the contract's provisions as 'too expensive'.  Was he intentionally trying to overstate the value of the contract to bolster his position? Maybe Chris can explain his logic at the next BOS meeting, but it seems like posturing to me.

I happen to think Joe is worth every penny in his contract. He's very effective, a proactive, big picture thinker who's also good with detail, and a class act who knows how to get the best out of staff. Ultimately, the buck stops with him when something goes wrong and he accepts responsibility, as a good manager should, whenever there's a problem. He has earned the loyalty and respect of staff as a result. He's also earned the respect of local municipal officials, business leaders and governmental agencies. As an example, earlier this year, Joe was the recipient of the "Excellence in Public Service" award from the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce. Montco Chamber of Commerce Spring 2010 newsletter

I can personally attest to the fact that the Township gets much more from Joe than just what he's obligated to do. During my time as a supervisor, it was obvious to me that he goes above and beyond on a regular basis. It wasn't unusual to get a phone call from him at night, early in the morning or on weekends.

I'm glad he'll be with us for another three years. He'll have served longer than any other Lower Providence Township manager, and longevity and stability can go a long way toward a municipality maintaining a favorable credit/bond rating. But, in my eyes, that's the least of the reasons his position with the Township is a good thing. Kudos to the BOS for getting the deal done, with or without Chris on board.


Anonymous said...

I have no opinion about Mr. Dunbar, one way or the other.

What I'd like to know is why the township is so strapped for cash with Shannondell in operation.

Weren't they supposed to use one of those bulldozers to push great mountains of cash all the way over to Eagleville?

Maybe I got the wrong impression, somehow.

It happens.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms Kearney,

Do you have an opinion about the revitalization committee? Would you please do a blog post about it? I know I’d benefit from your insight and I’m pretty sure a lot of other people would too.

You see, I just filled out the questionnaire by Letter27 and it seemed to me kind of strange. First off, I really don’t see what’s so very bad about Lower Providence the way things are right now. I guess there’s always room for improvement but I don’t get this sense of urgency as if the township’s going down the drain or something.

Second, the questionnaire seemed to me designed to gather evidence that there’s popular support for rezoning the Valley Forge Corporate Center. The questionnaire also seemed to me to be a push-poll designed to sell the idea of a rezoning Now, maybe rezoning is a good idea and maybe it isn’t. I really don’t know. But I don’t like the idea of our elected officials being so disingenuous.

I suspect this so-called revitalization thing is really about Audubon Land Development, or some similar company, wanting to make more money and using our local government to do it. That might not be in the public’s best interest.

Are my suspicions out of line?