Policy and Procedure

Last night’s special meeting produced a decision by the Lake Park town commission to draft a one month contract between Jamie Titcomb and the town. The contract will be drawn up with the town attorney, and by the next commission meeting on Wednesday, February 15th, Mr. Titcomb is expected to take over the interim town manager position.

Not much was asked of Mr. Titcomb at the meeting last night, likely because everyone on the commission had some knowledge of him and knew him in passing, which unfortunately seemed to keep them from asking questions that would enlighten the residents about his past employment, etc. Commissioner Rumsey, to his credit, made the most concerted effort to draw out information from Mr. Titcomb and gave us our first glimpse into who he is and his recent time spent at North Palm (about which Mr. Titcomb provided scant details). Thank you, Commissioner Rumsey for getting the ball rolling.

In his answer about his time in North Palm, Mr. Titcomb merely stated that he wasn’t a good fit there, which left this writer with more questions. He stated something to the effect that he felt he would be more suited to Lake Park. Hmmm… I must say I have to wonder why. He described himself and his characteristics as polite, hard working and basically someone who would do what it takes to get along with the commission.  He stated that he would serve at the pleasure of the commission.

Procede with Caution

It’s always wise in situations such as we find ourselves to proceed with some caution, especially in light of where we are coming from. This morning, an article in the Palm Beach Post described Mr. Titcomb’s departure from North Palm as controversial, an insight which was not brought to light in the meeting last night. I have not had time to look into the story as to why he left, and actually last night’s meeting was the first I had heard that he was even the former town manager there. Last week our commission mainly painted him as a colleague they had some knowledge of from the governmental association, The League of Cities, I believe. It would, however, have served our town well to ask more questions and understand why it was he didn’t fit there. Were his philosophies of government more in keeping with the direction Lake Park has taken in the past? If so, is that why he was tapped for the interim position? What if we felt North Palm was worth emulating? Would we then find ourselves at odds with Mr. Titcomb? Is he hoping to step in and carry on the kinds of ideas and culture that Maria Davis previously promoted? What about Lake Park does he see as being more of a fit? These are merely questions for which it would be valuable to find answers, not only in regard to Mr. Titcomb, but in regard to anyone we consider for the permanent position of Town Manager. Last night’s meeting did not offer as many clues or as much insight as it seems we should have been afforded before making a decision.

No other candidates seemed to have been seriously considered for the interim position despite the fact that Mr. Spence has submitted his resume and attended the last two meetings, even making a concerted effort to introduce himself to the town and the commission last week. I do hope that the commission delves deeply into any and all candidates from here on out, whether they feel familiar with them or not, and take the time to not only ask questions of the candidates but find references, consider previous employment history, etc., conduct interviews with those who have insight into the previous situations above and beyond just speaking with the candidate on the phone and looking at their website information. The last thing we need is to just assume all will be well because the candidate says it will be or because they are known to our commission in passing through common governmental associations.

Once again, last night’s meeting reminds us that our town’s procedure for situations, such as we currently find ourselves in, must be clarified and corrected. The manner in which the commission came to their decision last night truly lacked organization and direction. Such transitional procedures should be foundational, a first order of business. Policy to this effect needs to be seriously considered and solidified right away in the coming days. Our town spends scads of time on regulating and creating ordinances and voting on projects and policies that govern and restrict residents. Something much more valuable they could do would be to actually govern and restrict town leadership and make sure policy and organization for times of upheaval such as we are experiencing are set in place so we do not “panic into error”. These are make or break issues. We run the risk of setting ourselves up by not being prepared.

Employee Handbook

On a related note, last night Diane Bernhard made the following suggestion in the blog comments:

Diane Bernhard
February 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Good Evening All! Has everyone here seen a copy of the 2009 Lake Park Employees’ Handbook? At over 130 pages it is more than double the size of the 1998 version.

Now that our town has a new Interim Town Manager — whose duties, apparently — include hiring a permanent Town Manager — we should give some thought to the handbook he will be using to do his (temporary) job and which he will hand over to the permanent Town Manager.

If we want to be sure that the job responsibilities and powers of Town Manager have not been expanded and will not go into the future as bigger than we — and the Commission — invisioned, we must act now before we miss our chance!

I am posting this here in the hopes that some of you will be willing to join with me in an effort to encourage the Commission to block the use of this handbook and to (perhaps) help in the writing of a new one.

Anyone who wishes a copy of either handbook may leave an email address and i’ll send a copy to you immediately.
Diane Bernhard

I am very happy to see someone else is concerned about this. I read the employee handbook last summer while trying to find information on job descriptions (which I never was able to uncover) and had numerous concerns about the handbook. My desire was to compare the old and the new to see what changes have been made because of disconcerting lingo that appeared throughout along with a well-worn phrase that seemed to conclude a majority of paragraphs or sections: “…serves at the pleasure of the town manager”. That alone provided a clue as to the trouble our town was in.

Due to other town concerns coming one after another, I had to put my concerns about the handbook on hold and only recently have I obtained a copy of the previous version in order to begin the comparison. I haven’t yet had a chance to do so in order to ascertain where changes were made, but perhaps if we all work together, even divvying it up, we could get that done quickly.

The Success of Lake Park is Our Responsibility

If you would like to join Diane in encouraging the town commission to block usage of the handbook until it has been reviewed, determinations can be made, concerns can be noted and changes can be considered, please let us know in the comment section. The residents of Lake Park should be the driving force behind the commission’s actions. Let’s lead and hold the Lake Park commission accountable for the wording of our town documents which define policy and procedure and ultimately the success of our town.

This is a time sensitive issue, so quick action and coordination will be necessary in order to affect any desired change that may be needed on this matter.