Black is white and white is black in SLO, city employees say

September 26, 2012

Katie Lichtig


San Luis Obispo city workers, angry about the way the city handles personnel matters, are calling policies that promote employees who break the rules, “black is white and white is black.”

Employees began to vent about the city’s promotion practices following the publication of a CalCoastNews article about city managers promoting and giving awards to employees who are under criminal investigation or who have been written up for anger management and discrimination issues.

On Friday, Assistant City Manager Michael Codron explained the city’s promotion and reward practices in an email to department heads entitled “CalCoastNews article, importance high.”

The email criticized CalCoastNews for publishing the “disparaging article” and explains that employees learn from their mistakes.

“Fundamentally, we know that when mistakes are made, they become valuable learning opportunities for the employee and the organization. Mistakes are not an excuse to punish, demean or reinforce prejudice. I think this is why the article is so upsetting – it is based on the premise that no public employee should ever, ever make any kind of mistake. That is not a characteristic of a high-functioning organization and why we must let our employees know that, true to our organizational values, we don’t operate that way.”

Codron’s response followed a string of employee emails complaining about Christine Wallace’s promotion to the city’s new Neighborhood Outreach Manager position. Over the past few years, Wallace had been ordered to take anger management classes and been chastised for religious discrimination. Even so, she was selected for the management position, beating out other city employees with clean employment records, master’s degrees and longer tenure with the city.

Codron explained to the city’s department heads that promotion, hiring and awards were the result of careful work and review.

“Our personnel processes, including hiring and employee recognition, are conducted with consistency and close oversight to preclude unwarranted bias or influence, and to prevent us from jumping to inaccurate conclusions,” Codron said in the email. “They are aimed at ensuring the highest quality employees are recognized.”

City employees responded by forwarding Codron’s email with the comment “black is white and white is black.”

On Thursday, Derek Johnson, SLO’s community development director, sent an email out to employees saying that City Manager Katie Lichtig sees employee morale as an important issue. To improve morale, Lichtig and department heads are looking for funding resources to add more employees and lessen workloads.

“Two new planning techs will be starting in the next few weeks to provide counter relief,” Johnson said in the email. “These planners are being funded with outside revenues from current development applications.”

Even so, in the past 19 months, 34 full-time city employees ended their employment with the city, according to Human Resources Director Monica Irons.




  1. Cicero says:

    It is time for Lichtig to go, and for the City to require that no city manager be paid more than three times the median income in San Luis Obispo. We need competent and honest management; not over paid management. We need management that has lived in San Luis Obispo for years, and understand the City and its Citizens; not the next roving social climber with a master’s degree in public administration from out of town.

    (13) 13 Total Votes - 13 up - 0 down
  2. slo Fact Finder says:

    Woh, there appears to be no where to hide the evidence any longer. The emperor truly has no clothes!

    (14) 16 Total Votes - 15 up - 1 down
  3. Gsan says:

    Hear Katie here:

    (-7) 9 Total Votes - 1 up - 8 down
  4. Crusader says:

    I’m not sure why you responded to my posting in that manner but here’s an idea.

    First, can Lichtig. She’s a cancer and needs to be cut out. Do it in an above board manner and in such a way that she won’t receive exorbitant severance pay. Based on what I have read, there might be a morals/conflict issue brewing? Then can Michael Codron.

    Hire someone along the lines of a John Dunn, Ken Hampion, Jim Grant or whomever is suitable and available on a six month contract to allow a cooling-off period and the time to conduct an honest search for a new city manager.

    Interview replacements at about 60% of what Lichtig is being paid. I would encourage both Councilman Andrew Carter and Shelly Stanwyck to apply. If Stanwyck is hired I would abolish her current job. No matter who was hired I would abolish Michael Codron’s job as it’s a wasted paycheck.


    (44) 50 Total Votes - 47 up - 3 down
    • HomegrownSLO says:

      So who would run Parks and Rec if Stanwyck took over?

      (-11) 13 Total Votes - 1 up - 12 down
      • Crusader says:

        In addition to Stanwyk I count a manager and seven supervisors within parks and recreations. Seven supervisors? Really? Anyway, the position of “director” (currently Stanwyk) and “manager” should be combined. SLO Parks & Rec simply doesn’t need a $150K/year administrator.

        I suspect more than one of those supervisory positions could be combined as well. SLO City needs to begin thinking differently…

        (40) 40 Total Votes - 40 up - 0 down
        • HomegrownSLO says:

          I couldn’t agree more but hiring from within isn’t the solution for Parks and Rec. No doubt there are too many “managers” but none of them are qualified to run the department. Parks and Rec needs a face lift.

          (21) 21 Total Votes - 21 up - 0 down
          • Crusader says:

            Then the current manager and one or more supervisors also need to get canned before a new manager is hired — someone who is truly competent.

            (34) 34 Total Votes - 34 up - 0 down
            • The Gimlet Eye says:

              The trouble is not just that one person; GOVERNMENT is incompetent.

              (2) 2 Total Votes - 2 up - 0 down
    • hijinks says:

      Wow, talk about promoting crooked incompetence — Hampian and Dunn, who gave away the city’s crown jewels to developers, who can’t get enough of the chamber — and their protegees Sanwyck and Carter? The city would be totally down the drain if those crooks got into its management.

      Look, Lichtig isn’t the problem. It’s a council that doesn’t understand it’s in charge, and is thus out to lunch most of the time. What’s wrong with a council that they let staff do a performance evaluation on them? They’re clueless about who’s in charge, that’s what.

      I do agree about Codron and his position — both need to go away.

      (-1) 29 Total Votes - 14 up - 15 down
      • Crusader says:

        Both Hampion and Dunn would make decent enough caretakers for 6 months, although I would be concerned about the integrity of the selection process for a new city manager, no matter who was in the temporary caretaker position.

        Lichtig is a huge problem. I do agree with you though, the council is so fractured right now that it seems almost paralyzed to act. You’re correct when you suggest the council needs to take the reins back and to live up to their promises to lead.

        I think that voting for the best candidates for mayor and councilperson plays a huge part in any recovery process. I don’t know Stanwyk but I suspect that Carter would be fairly competent as a city manager. He lacks people skills but he’s clearly a great deal brighter than what’s there now and I don’t think a lot of the divisive politics (see Christine Wallace matter above as an example) would be tolerated under his tenure.

        (23) 23 Total Votes - 23 up - 0 down
  5. roxanne22 says:

    Get your facts together!!!

    (-27) 27 Total Votes - 0 up - 27 down
  6. msminiver says:

    What else can happen within behind the “Iron Curtain” at SLO City Hall under the control of Katie Litchig, Chistine Dietrick, Monica Irons, Andrew Carter, Mayor Marx and Dan Carpenter. Looking back at all the investigative reports that were published these past years any member of the community must just be sick and wondering where our tax money is going. Since 2010 the City of San Luis Obispo, council, Administration, City Attorney and numerous staff couldn’t avoid making the headlines. It seems the past few years are a continuous episode of “Nuts Landing”, but all within the walls of the City of San Luis Obispo. It started off with the numerous scandals surrounding the recently elected mayor’s back door political affiliations in support and opposition to the Ernie Dalido Project.
    We had a City of San Luis Obispo Fire Fighter beat a citizen to unconsciousness, we had a police officer follow a handicap county resident home and beat him, the mayor was linked to political corruption, the City Attorney consistently refuses to produce documents under the Freedom of Information Act, the City attorney slams a judge and willfully undermines a local judges decisions, we had a City employee go postal on facebook during work hours, we had a city employee intentionally dump hazardous waste to get back at his boss for lecturing him about inappropriate behavior within the work place, we had another employee revealed for bilking the city by misappropriating city assets, a city council and city administration repeatedly implicated in Brown Act Violations, a local community group uncover a $74 million dollar city slush fund that was hidden, questionable workers compensation case filed by City Administration to benefit one of their own, hiring individuals currently under criminal investigation by the fed’s, nepotism, rewarding and promoting abhorrent behavior, back room dealings with privileged developers, contraband smuggling officers, selective enforcement of the rules and regulations, and one cover up after another by City Administration and Council. Read the articles for yourself – here are the links. When will enough be enough? These are not “mistakes” as Michael Condom states, these are willful, deceitful lies, thefts of City property, criminal acts, violations of employee rights and much more. A mistake is not intentional, a mistake is not a continuous pattern of behavior, a mistake is a rarity, not business as usual. Read the facts for yourself.
    • Supervisors OK homeless plan
    • Homeless plaintiff’s RV seized by SLO police
    • Lawsuit filed on behalf of San Luis Obispo’s homeless
    • SLO homeless plan facing legal battle
    • Homeless speak out against police crackdown

    (46) 50 Total Votes - 48 up - 2 down
    • Crusader says:

      Your posting brought this to mind:

      (31) 33 Total Votes - 32 up - 1 down
  7. Justin says:

    I’ll tell you what…I for one, instead of getting relief by venting on this blog for which these dumb ass’s at city hall could give a crap, am going to let them know face to face what I think. How about you guy’s. I’m totally fed up with this bul#*t.

    (25) 29 Total Votes - 27 up - 2 down
    • Human Reason says:

      Each and everyone of us should confront our city council members and ask them what they are going to do about this. If they do nothing then vote them out of office.

      (26) 26 Total Votes - 26 up - 0 down
      • hijinks says:

        Who you going to elect instead? The worst landlord and biggest whiner in SLO for mayor? A homeless fellow whose withdrawn from the race? A certified crackpot? If you all thought it so important to elect new people, why isn’t anybody running who could/would make a positive difference? Too lazy, that’s why. Easier just to complain and rant at CCN.

        (-12) 16 Total Votes - 2 up - 14 down
    • easymoney says:

      Everyone should be outraged, no city employee is above scrutiny and those who are a cancer need to go, not be given awards and pay raises..

      (17) 19 Total Votes - 18 up - 1 down
  8. Justin says:

    “Fundamentally, we know that when mistakes are made, they become valuable learning opportunities for the employee and the organization. Mistakes are not an excuse to punish, demean or reinforce prejudice. I think this is why the article is so upsetting – it is based on the premise that no public employee should ever, ever make any kind of mistake. That is not a characteristic of a high-functioning organization and why we must let our employees know that, true to our organizational values, we don’t operate that way.”

    This is the biggest crock of s#*T I have ever heard in my life. Adults that are hired into the public workforce are supposed to know the difference between right and wrong. It is the most basic principle of being a mature human being. It’s like they are talking about a bunch of two year olds.

    Heaven help us all.

    (27) 27 Total Votes - 27 up - 0 down
    • hijinks says:

      It’s commonly called public relations, not a crock of s***. People get paid, big time, in the private sector for concocting this trash.

      (-14) 14 Total Votes - 0 up - 14 down
      • Justin says:

        Okay…so let me re-phrase! “This is the biggest crock of (Bull)s#*T I have ever heard in my life”.

        There, is that better?

        (10) 10 Total Votes - 10 up - 0 down
  9. Crusader says:

    Lichtig/Codron = Edge/Wilcox.

    Every bit as scummy and unacceptable…

    (38) 42 Total Votes - 40 up - 2 down
    • roxanne22 says:

      The only difference between public sector and private sector is public sector did their home work many years ago.
      Now you all want to cry because you expect something for nothing. Take a look in the new Journal Plus
      hand out and enjoy City Councilman Andrew Carter cry baby story about” Can’t find a job” BS!!!!!!!!! Don’t
      take it away from the hard working just because you can”t figure it out. Same goes to Karen Viele!

      (-28) 28 Total Votes - 0 up - 28 down
      • The Gimlet Eye says:

        The Fallacy of the ‘Public Sector’
        by Murray N. Rothbard


        We have heard a great deal in recent years of the “public sector,” and solemn discussions abound through the land on whether or not the public sector should be increased vis-à-vis the “private sector.” The very terminology is redolent of pure science, and indeed it emerges from the supposedly scientific, if rather grubby, world of “national-income statistics.” But the concept is hardly wertfrei; in fact, it is fraught with grave, and questionable, implications.

        In the first place, we may ask, “public sector” of what? Of something called the “national product.” But note the hidden assumptions: that the national product is something like a pie, consisting of several “sectors,” and that these sectors, public and private alike, are added to make the product of the economy as a whole. In this way, the assumption is smuggled into the analysis that the public and private sectors are equally productive, equally important, and on an equal footing altogether, and that “our” deciding on the proportions of public to private sector is about as innocuous as any individual’s decision on whether to eat cake or ice cream. The State is considered to be an amiable service agency, somewhat akin to the corner grocer, or rather to the neighborhood lodge, in which “we” get together to decide how much “our government” should do for (or to) us. Even those neoclassical economists who tend to favor the free market and free society often regard the State as a generally inefficient, but still amiable, organ of social service, mechanically registering “our” values and decisions.


        (6) 12 Total Votes - 9 up - 3 down
        • hijinks says:

          Hah! quoting an Austrian idiot economist, I see. Must be one of those right wingnut libertarians. Only problem is Austrian economics is a crock. It doesn’t work.

          (3) 15 Total Votes - 9 up - 6 down

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