Rules are for suckers

When it came time to hire an architect at city Hall, bureaucrats Robert Troy and Jan Adams made one unforgivable mistake. They were honest.

But none of this was going to dissuade Reese from her determination to give Johnson McKibben the half-million-dollar contract to determine the future of the city's cultural facilities. In the weeks ahead, Reese pushed the committee to change its mind.


KEEP VOTING TILL YOU GET IT RIGHT

Baely two months into his new job as a city architect, Robert Troy found himself hip-deep in the dirtiest deal he'd ever been asked to take part in.
Mark Graham
Baely two months into his new job as a city architect, Robert Troy found himself hip-deep in the dirtiest deal he'd ever been asked to take part in.
Pat Magill of Magill Architects Inc. is waiting to see what the city does with allegations of contract rigging in the Office of Cultural Affairs.
Mark Graham
Pat Magill of Magill Architects Inc. is waiting to see what the city does with allegations of contract rigging in the Office of Cultural Affairs.

When Reese refused to accept the outcome of the selection process, she complained to Troy's superiors. Their reaction was to keep fiddling with the process, trying to find a way to make the vote come out the way Reese wanted it. But nothing seemed to work. At one point, David Dybala told the committee to devise a new weighting formula so that some questions would count more than others. They agreed, and Reese helped design the new system. When the evaluation forms were recalculated, Magill was first, HOK was second, and Johnson McKibben was third.

Troy's memo says, "Margie Reese got very upset and shook papers in the air..."

Elias Sassoon, another public works manager, came up with yet another voting scheme -- this time to cut down the list of questions, start with new ones, and then vote again. It took a month to get Reese to agree to the new questions.

They voted again. Under enormous pressure from her boss, Adams changed her vote so that, of the total of 85 points she awarded to the top two candidates, Johnson McKibben would come out one point ahead of Magill, 43 to 42.

It still wasn't enough to push Johnson McKibben over the top. The committee's ranking came out exactly as it had the first two times, with Johnson McKibben rated last of the three firms.

And it wasn't enough to allow Jan Adams to keep her job.

"She [Reese] calls me into her office at 4:30 p.m.," Adams says, "and she tells me, 'Your services are no longer needed in the Office of Cultural Affairs.' I said, 'Excuse me?' We had already had several meetings that day, and she hadn't said a word. Two months prior, she had given me an excellent performance review.

"I said, 'Just what have I done wrong here?' She said, 'You didn't support me in your vote.' I said, 'Margie, I voted for your team.' She said, 'I know, but all you gave me was one point. One little point! Do you know how ridiculous that made me look in front of David Dybala?'"

Since then, Adams has been assigned around the city to temporary positions below her employment grade. Her status, she says, is now uncertain.


INSPECTOR CLUELESS

What emerges from between the lines of Robert Troy's elaborate memo to file is an atmosphere inside City Hall of paranoia and two-bit skullduggery, some of which verges on the clownish. There are instances in which his superiors wrote memos to one another but did not sign them, so that the memos later could be destroyed or denied if necessary.

In one instance, Troy wrote a memo to Sassoon, his immediate superior, warning him Johnson McKibben had fared poorly in the due diligence report. Then Troy copied the memo to Dybala. When Sassoon saw his copy of the memo the next morning, he rushed to Troy's office and bawled him out for sending a signed memo to Dybala.

Troy's memo to file reads: "July 9 -- This AM Elias reprimanded me for sending the July 8th memo. He said that by David receiving the copy, it would limit his political options to act if he was told by the City Manager that the choice was to be Johnson McKibben/HHPA."

Sassoon told the Observer, "This is all news to me," but then declined to comment further because the matter is under investigation by the city auditor.

Sassoon is at the center of another tangled scenario in Troy's memo: As the selection process began to drag on much longer than expected, the people at Magill became worried. Early on, they had received hints and signals leading them to believe they had the job in the bag. But when the months rolled by and still no announcement was made, they realized something had gone wrong.

William Geter, Magill's associate, called Sassoon to see whether he could sniff out where things stood. "That's just kind of standard operating procedure for us anyway," Magill says. "Even if we're not selected for a project, we like to call and try to find out what we did wrong. Did we wear a blue tie instead of a red one? Whatever. Win, lose, or draw, we need feedback. His [Geter's] request was if it was possible for us to get documentation of the process. The response was yes."

Magill, who says he was in the room with Geter when he called, described Geter's tone as "cordial and relaxed." Geter, according to Magill, asked Sassoon whether he could look through the file on the selection process later, and Magill says Sassoon agreed that he could.

But Geter, perhaps not knowing how people at City Hall feel about the paper thing, made the mistake later in the day of putting the conversation in a letter and sending it back to Sassoon for confirmation. A few days afterward, Troy walked into Sassoon's office just as Sassoon received Geter's letter.

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