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Friday, December 12, 2014

Running Mouths About Layoffs At City Hall: Allen vs. Johnson



"Rumors are like ripples in a cornfield. They are ephemeral, 
but they do indicate which way the wind is blowing."

--Susan J. Palmer, Aliens Adored

Portsmouth City Council is engaging in another entertaining round of "He Said; She Said." The participants are City Manager Derek Allen, First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson, and an unnamed female department head. See if you can figure out what way "the wind is blowing."

Just who told what "unfounded rumor" 
to whom about layoffs at City Hall? 

I don't know, but the Daily Times reports ...

“There are employees in this building who are obviously worried about their jobs,” Allen said. “and I have no idea why a councilman would come in on November 25 and tell a department head I threw her under the bus thinking that would not cause animosity between the department head and the city manager, which it did. I explained to her why I made the comment and why I said what I said. Then, today, not an hour ago, she was in my office because apparently you (First Ward Councilman Kevin W. Johnson) told her we are going to lay her off in May.”

Allen then motioned toward several city employees who were in attendance.

“Are we going to lay them off too?” he asked Johnson.

Johnson then responded - “Are you looking at me? I didn’t say that.”

(Frank Lewis. "Allen confronts council over statements."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. December 09. 2014)

Allen then suggested getting the unidentified department head together with Johnson and to ask her what was said to her, Allen explained he didn't need damaged relationships between him and department officials. He believes this breach is a Charter violation. However, he did consider the possibility that the employee was being dishonest. He stated, "I don't know." Allen said he was at a loss for words as to what is going on in the city.

Allen went on to say - “I don’t know why you feel the need to make department heads feel as though they’re going to lose their jobs. If you didn’t say that then obviously I need to talk to her and reprimand her because she came to me and said that. She went home. She was going to be here at this meeting. If council is going to let people go, let’s just do it now.”

And so, the drama continues ...

Let's ask ourselves several questions about the City Manager's allegations. Here are some lingering questions:

* Who is the female department head so upset about the possibility of losing her job?

* Is she telling the truth about the rumor of her layoff?

* Who, if not Councilman Johnson, informed her about losing her position?

* Why is someone (many) trying to create ugly, in-fighting animosity?

* Who, if anyone, is City Council considering "letting go"? 

* Will there be reprimands and continued ill will?

There are more questions to answer about the future of city employees and their sources of information than there are bricks falling from rundown structures in downtown Portsmouth. The speculative cast of characters involved is so intriguing that reportedly all council members woke up when the latest flurry of fur flew in the Second Street chambers.

What will happen next at City Hall? I guess further investigation will tell. Nothing much is "apparent" in public, so citizens of Portsmouth are left to wonder about the facts. That is nothing new at Council meetings where speculation is a customary pastime.

But, of course, there is not much newsworthy information echoing in those hallowed halls anyway except maybe the "scary" proposition of drug testing to acquire a Drug-Free Workplace incentive. Oh well, that's another story better left to future posts.

This entire session at City Hall is best summed up in the words of City Manager Allen: "I don't know." It seems no one really knows the bottom line of much of anything anymore concerning city government. Still, that doesn't keep Council from babbling and projecting blame.

I taught high school for many years, and often when a fight occurred it was said by one of the participants that he or she had heard a rumor that his or her opponent "had been running their mouth." Of course, "mouth running" was considered by most juveniles to be reason enough to fight even if the initiator of the confrontation was acting upon hearsay alone.

I am curious about infighting at city hall. Why so there much? Who is angry? What part of the disagreements represent political posturing? And, of course, who is just "running their mouth"?

Them there is fighting words in these here parts. I mean, If I heard someone was runnin' their mouth about me, I would have to hit first and ask questions later. What would you do?

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. 
That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

--Ernest Hemingway


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