In a parallel universe, I read in The Ledger yesterday about the long-awaited firing of a city government leader who failed to instill a rigorous public safety and organizational culture.
City Manager Doug Thomas had previously said certain “cardinal rules” weren’t followed by the police department, such as taking police rape calls seriously, not making women shake their bras, not falsifying DUI records, not ignoring public records laws, not arresting people for trumped up spitting charges, not beating down guys over pizzas, not having dudes suspected of ethics violations teaching cop ethics, not treating a child sex abuse victim as the office playtoy, and other procedures that ensure the police department doesn’t repeatedly prey on the public with impunity.
Chief Womack had only been here a few years when this mayhem occurred, but Thomas noted the proper training wasn’t in place for the police officers.
“We had a very egregious breakdown in awareness,” Thomas said Monday. “When you have a situation like that, it always falls back on leadership.”
Womack was the person responsible for LPD’s training and development, Thomas said.
“That’s what you expect out of your police chief, and we didn’t have anyone doing that at that time,” Thomas said.
JUST KIDDING. HA HA HA. AGAIN, I AM JUST KIDDING. THAT’s NOT THE REAL STORY.
The real story is that the city fired a supervisor who was on vacation at the time one of his people accidentally came close to damaging one of Lakeland Electric’s generators. No one was hurt; nothing was damaged. But someone decided that Ronald Brooks, who was on vacation at the time of the incident, needed to lose his almost 30-year career over what might have happened.
Here’s the real passage explaining why:
General Manager Joel Ivy had previously said certain “cardinal rules” weren’t followed, such as the lockout/tagout procedures that ensure equipment and machinery is properly shut off and not started up again until maintenance has been completed.
Brooks was on vacation when the accident occurred, but Ivy said proper training wasn’t in place for the electricians.
“We had a very egregious breakdown in awareness,” Ivy said Monday. “When you have a situation like that, it always falls back on leadership.”
Brooks was the one responsible for Cox’s training and development, Ivy said.
“That’s what you expect out of your foreman, and we didn’t have anyone doing that at that time,” Ivy said.
So what’s the difference between Ronald Brooks and Chief Womack or City Manager Doug Thomas or City Attorney Tim McCausland?
I suspect this is:
Ronald Brooks, a transmission and distribution supervisor who had been with the city-owned utility since 1984, was terminated earlier this month over the incident, according to the city. He was paid $96,345 a year.
$96K does not buy you Doug Thomas-level impunity in Lakeland city government. You’ve got to be at least north of six figures before anybody starts talking about the importance of not acting in knee-jerk fashion toward you. You’re not really a leader, devoid of any responsibility, until you hit six figures. Hell, it doesn’t even buy you Tommy Hamrick-level impunity. He got to resign, with a portfolio of actual victims and actual harm left behind.
If only Keith Merritt bothered to talk to conventions of electric utility workers. Maybe, just maybe, someone would tell him that Ronald Brooks is the finest electric worker in the state. And that would make his record, whatever it is, irrelevant.
Seriously, commissioners, on what moral planet can you jettison 30-year-utility-veteran Ronald Brooks for leadership negligence in accidental damage that did not happen while fighting to the death to keep the Thomas, McCausland, Womack reign of carnage in place? How can you look yourselves in the mirror?
Commissioners, reverse this firing based on your own clear standards for leadership behavior. Ronald Brooks has not violated them. Because they don’t exist.
And Joel Ivey, I’m sorry to bring you into this, but you work for an organization that has no leadership standards. So don’t go arbitrarily creating a silly attachment to real accountability that no one else in the city leadership shares. It can only cause you problems. You can’t actually do your job when your leadership peers and commissioners don’t do theirs. People will notice. And mock. It’s not your fault, and if I were you, I’d take a commissioner aside and let them know you don’t appreciate being made ridiculous.
On the other hand, maybe you were doing just that with those quotes. You could have hardly thrown me an alley-oop easier to dunk. If so, well played.
The city commissioners want to keep you. They like you what you’re doing. Keith Merritt went on and on about the awesomeness of Lakeland Electric last week. So they may be a lot more inclined to listen to you than me. I hope so, for all of our sakes.
I’m not a labor lawyer, but I can’t help thinking that wrongful termination over leadership defenses are not helped by the organizational absence of rightful terminations of leadership.