Monday, April 16, 2018

Can Truth Compete with Lies in Purcellville?

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it"- Joseph Goebbels 

CM Bledsoe is untruthful. The definition of a lie is a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive.  So yes, I am stating that Council Member (CM) Bledsoe is a liar. 

Let's get some background: 

He deceived voters in May of 2016 when he told the voters he was in alignment with Mayor Fraser. Shortly after being elected, his actions on Council made it clear he likely never was.  

On election day November 2016, CM Bledsoe managed to attend the PBA luncheon and vote in person yet didn't show up to our meeting that night for the Klien annexation vote.  He campaigned on the issue; he told voters he was for slow, managed growth and that this particular annexation was troublesome. And yet, he was a no-show. 

CM Bledsoe told voters he was for reducing the height limits in the town zoning code and then claimed to be sick and didn't show up for the vote. His email communications regarding the reduction of the height limit gave faint support, but at the same time, he was very critical of it. I once sat through a vital Council meeting so sick that I could not drive to the meeting and I had to leave early and ended up in the hospital the next morning. All because I refused to miss a crucial vote. 

How do you avoid being held accountable to the voters? You avoid the vote.  

On to CM Bledsoe's latest social media posting with some background. 

During the April 10, 2018, TC meeting, CM Bledsoe stated, "As these investigations have gone on, I've noticed a lot of comments on social media by some that would seem to imply that past management practices have created the circumstances by which these investigations started. I couldn't disagree more. I don't think that's the case. In some cases, statements have been made that would seem to rationalize the reasons for these investigations, and a public forum these statements are made as if we're going to be better off because of these." 

In response, Mayor Fraser called CM Bledsoe's statement a lie. Perhaps using the word lie was too harsh, but sometimes it is best to call a spade a spade. 

CM Bledsoe's claim that anyone on Council stated that this investigation is a good thing is beyond misleading. I have said that in the end, the investigation will be for the good in that it will change Town processes, and create a system that will prevent something like this from hopefully never happening again. Yes, I stated that we would have had an investigation if Mr. Lohr had not retired merely because we had a police department in crisis. The investigation would have been far different, but one would have occurred nevertheless.

CM Bledsoe stated on social media on April 15, 2018, "my comments expressed my opinion because I did not have the published report" and that is misleading because every member of the Council was given time to sit with the investigation team several weeks ago and review the full report in detail, which is far more lengthy and detailed than the published report released this past week. He was also in the room when an investigator stated to everyone that, "there has been a culture of complacency" in our Town government. For CM Bledsoe to have heard that statement and many others and then to deny that there were systemic issues goes to show that Upton Sinclair was spot on, "you can't get a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding it." In this case, Bledsoe's political future or shall we say his new place in the gatekeepers club demands on him not understanding. 

In CM Bledsoe's social media post, he states, "No one could have predicted the actions taken by the former Interim Town Manager, " yet his spouse made numerous postings online implying that several members of the TC caused this, were directly involved in the investigation and even made a horrible accusation about a member of the town staff.  

In response to the Washington Post article, she made this statement: 

I expressed to CM Bledsoe during an executive meeting how damaging his wife's comments are because they are not true and what she says may be construed as factual given that she may have details about this investigation that an ordinary citizen would not have since she is married to a sitting Council Member. CM Bledoe's reply was a flippant and dismissive, "talk to my wife," which is reckless since her statements could directly lead the Town toward more litigation. Not to mention the TC and individual Council members have grounds to pursue Mrs. Bledsoe for libelous comments that she knows to be untruthful. 

CM Bledsoe states, "my opinions, which are fully supported by the facts" and yet he does not report any facts. 

Switching gears for a minute.

Every applicant we interviewed for the new town manager position had at one point in their career been fired or amicably released by a sitting council or county supervisors. The town manager position is very different than other local government positions because they are hired, not elected, and they can lose their job if the majority of council members decide it's time for a change.  The average town manager stays in their position about three to six years.  

From the interviews and talking with Mr. Anzivino, who has participated in management recruiting, a regular position change is not only desirable but a necessity. Immobility shows a reluctance to change and find new challenges. When the 2016 Town Council declared they were the decision-making body and would move forward on what the voters demanded, a division was created. The majority on TC wanted to go in a different direction. The Town Manager requested retirement which we honored. 

When it came to hiring an ITM, we had two candidates before us; one had no management experience before being hired two years prior, and one had a stellar review record, 12-year tenure, and managed the largest department. All seven TC voted to appoint the ITM in the spring of 2017.  CM Bledsoe is correct, "no one could have predicted the actions taken by the former ITM who had the authority to do what he did while keeping Council in the dark regarding his actions." He further states, "I was chastised by the Town Council Members that Vanegas claims he had not briefed on the investigation." He is conflating two different issues. 

Background, also known as facts: 

When CM Bledsoe references the October 9, 2017 communication, CM Bledsoe sent an email to the entire TC that stated, "I believe it is improper that some Council members have been briefed on the issues and others have not" in regards to the investigation.  I refuted him with an email that stated, "I myself know very few specifics, and it is an unfair characterization that some are more informed."  He states that the Mayor remained silent when there was no reason for the Mayor to respond considering several other members of TC had responded refuting CM Bledsoe's conjectured assertion. When it comes to the statement that, "no one could have predicted the actions take by the former ITM," he should be referencing the fact that no member of the Town Council was aware of the mismanagement of the original investigation. Again, I repeat, no member of this Town Council had any knowledge of the mismanagment that was taking place. Every member of the Council voted no-confidence, including CM Bledsoe.  I had the same information as he did and the entire Council voted exactly the same then and since on this investigation, and yet he continues to try to separate himself 

During his time as ITM, John Anzivino sent weekly updates to the TC. Here are a few snippets to give you a sense of what was revealed to Town Council over the past few months:

".... variety of policy changes and practices which have been made and what else I have observed I feel may need to be changed to help the Town to continue its path of improving internal operations (I will also be sharing that list with the Council), providing a sense of my observed strengths and weaknesses  in the organization and handing off the projects." 

We discovered that Ethical Advocate had never been fully implemented.  "....The ethical advocate system has been rolled out to all employees. As you will recall, the Town engaged Ethical Advocate, an organization that specializes in advocating ethical culture and behavior in the workplace, to work with us in developing systems and communications to better achieve integrity, ethical behavior, openness, and the ability to quickly react to suggestions, feedback, and unethical behavior in the municipal  workplace.  The system is now operating and if concerns are expressed by employees human resources will be reporting them to management to be addressed and management will share issues with the Council."  

If Ethical Advocate had been in place last year, there is a good possibility this entire investigation could have been avoided.  

"We had a significant number of and issues with staffing and a number of issues that seem to arise every time we turned over another rock."

Also, the second to the last email that I received as a sitting member of the TC stated these nuggets: 

"The write off was shown in the CAFR under "small project" expense and impacted the water funds' bottom line in FY 13 & FY 15." {$2.1 Million write off in FY 2013} 
"$2.6 million in write-offs with no product or service delivered?"
"To avoid this problem in the future" is an understatement." 

I have no idea exactly what this $2.6 Million write off stemmed from. What I find hypocritical is the complaints about the investigation cost, but the silence of these same people over the purchase of a dilapidated church and the expense of over $8 Million for a town hall that to build new would cost a third to build. No one argues Fireman's Field is a gem, however, the majority of users are not town residents yet town residents incurred all of the debt to rehabilitate the facility. They were silent about the County refusing to buy Fireman's Field from the Fire Dept due to the dilapidated condition of the facilities. They were silent about town resident's taxes increasing 17% to pay for the upgrade to the facility. Yet they cry foul when we refinanced the debt and paid down the debt saving $12 Million.  

These same people cry about saving tradition and history but were silent when there were efforts to place a road through a 250-year-old farm. They were fine with the tear down of historical buildings and putting up a modern six-story building and destroying the historical character of downtown 21st street. They were silent when the Cole Farm barn was being knocked down. 

Fear mongering seems to punctuate Purcellville elections. Politicians have long used fear as a weapon to win elections. Here in Purcellville, the gatekeepers are the entrenched political party fraternity, incumbents and business people who have decided for far too long who will run for office and what decisions they will make. These gatekeepers also decided long ago that regardless of our positive progress, they would continue to go wild with accusations against the current Council in hopes of gaining back their control. I hope voters pay attention to the candidates these gatekeeps support and make well-informed decisions for the May 1st Election.  

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” 
― Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Thank you for your time.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Purcellville is Merry & Bright!

This is without a doubt the most distasteful editorial the LTM could write.
To disparage our town and our employees who worked so very hard to put on a wonderful event like this is beyond the pale. We had the highest number of attendees to date. We enjoyed dancers and carolers who entertained the crowd, as well as treats for kids and adults. For all the discord the LTM wants to create, there was none that night. Everyone was happy, enjoying themselves, and tons of people laughed when the tree didn't light up right, with one gentleman shouting, "hey, it's just like at my house" to which everyone laughed.
Here are some FACTS:
First: the Mayor went out of Town and was gone that entire weekend. That happens, it is called having a life outside of being Mayor. Six members of our Council work full-time jobs, they can't be expected to attend everything. Besides that, all of them have spouses and/or children with events to attend with their family. One Town Council member has missed 10 meetings and made only one interview session, but the Mayor misses a tree lighting and that is newsworthy.
Second: The LTM knows there is a lot we can't talk about simply because these are personnel issues and we legally can't say anything. Constantly asking or implying we aren't talking is stoking the flames to create a salacious storyline.
Third: The HR consultant was hired by the Interim Town Manager (not Council). For those who need a lesson in gov't: the Town Council is the legislative body, we are not involved in personnel issues unless it is with the Town Manager. The Town Manager is the only position on staff that the Council has full purview over. All other administrative tasks are handled by staff.
Everyone wants to know everything but we don't have the full picture yet which is why we are bringing in an investigation firm to audit the original investigation, to determine if the investigation was handled properly, and to investigate all allegations and complaints to date.
In the Absence of Information, People will Believe the Worst.
I don't.
I believe we have a lot of talented and dedicated staff members who truly love our Town.
I believe that my colleagues are competent and many have been working nearly full-time hours trying to assist in any way we can to help staff.
I believe Purcellville is a wonderful town. All it takes is a quick drive down Main Street to see all the holiday decorations painted by local residents who gave their time and talents to add beauty and joy to our Town and make things merry and bright!

Holiday Ornaments are all along Main Street and 21st Street.