Thursday, February 13, 2014

Just Compensation

Since the City formed TOD has consistently observed that for the City's three top positions we hired in haste and have suffered in an increasingly uncomfortable leisure. In one case we endured a breach so great that nothing less than permanent separation was acceptable. The other two...not so much. Yet.

Though not a singularity, the bungling of the Schneiderman investigation did not carry the consequences it should have or would have in other localities. And for years now we've endured the comedy of errors commonly known as CAD-to-CAD as our City Manager slowly realizes that wink-and-nod deals that work with real estate development don't work so well with computer systems development. Turns out computers don't blink.

Now folks are calling for action mostly in the form of a new City Manager. Some consider this harsh whilst others observe that the City Charter allows for little more than a nuclear option. Even the current City Manager, when justifying why he should not be subject to ethics oversight, argued that since he worked at the pleasure of the Mayor and Council such oversight was unnecessary. True dat.

As surprising as this may seem firing the City Manager won't fix the real problem. Without more fundamental changes the next City Manager will likely be as bad as the one we're currently saddled with and may even be worse. We need a better fix.

There is an old saying "You get what you pay for." Bullshit. You pay for what you get. And if you're smart you make sure of exactly what you are getting before you pay. That's what we need in this City: a compensation system that rewards results.

It works like this. Top City staffers (that would include the City Manager, Police Chief and City Attorney and their direct reports) will receive  two thirds of their W2 compensation as salary with the rest in the form of performance bonuses. Plural. The next layer of staffers will receive an eighty-twenty split.

The bonuses are earned by delivering against tangible, measurable objectives agreed upon in bi-annual employee-manager work sessions. In the case of the City Manager, this would comprise agreed upon goals that are aligned with the policy direction established by Council. Long term policy initiatives require that Council establish intermediate milestones. Had this been done with the CAD-to-CAD project the City Manager would not have been able to pull the "it will take three months" wool over Council's eyes. It would also mean that failure to perform would come directly out of the pockets of those who failed to live up to their commitments.

Throughout the organization these goals must be aligned with Council's policy objectives and vision for the City. They must also be prioritized as should Council policy and vision. And they should be allocated in such a fashion that each employee has a clear understanding of what must be done to earn competitive compensation and what can be done (stretch goals) to earn more. It is a track record of achieving these stretch goals and nothing else that leads to increases in overall compensation. You earn your pay and you earn your raise.

By establishing this compensation plan and publishing the objectives, priorities, policy and vision updated whenever there is any change we will establish a level of transparency and accountability that will go a long way towards making Dunwoody a city that operates in the way we were promised.