Commentary: To the citizens of Willmar from Bruce Gomm
I had hoped when the Municipal Utility Commission voted in favor of the league hiring an attorney saying "the investigation will examine the effectiveness of the utilities' management," that the intent would be to look at all management and to do a complete investigation. But I was very clearly told by this attorney that this was not the scope of her investigation. She was instructed to only look into wrongdoing by the general manager.
Prior to my interviews with this attorney I was not told what any of the allegations were against me and I was not given access to my documentation to show the facts of what was really happening. Was I perfect? Of course not. But did I do anything that I would worry about being made public? No. I have answered allegations ranging from timing of communicating information to Commissioners to not giving a certain employee a pay increase. It seems like every decision I have made since I was hired has been scrutinized.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, the investigation simply did not reveal the truth of the situation. Therefore, I am putting my case before you -- the citizens of Willmar in the hope that the truth will be told.
I have been accused of activities disruptive to utility operations. In my opinion, what has been disruptive to utility operations is putting the general manager on administrative leave at a time when it would kill three years of work on our solar project, jeopardize the power plant improvement project, and stall the final negotiations of future power supply contracts -- all of which would have ensured the long term viability of this utility.
Do the citizens of Willmar think it is right that since I have been put on administrative leave the utility has fired the two individuals that certain commissioners complained were hired because they belonged to the same church that I do? It apparently doesn't matter that I did not even personally know one of the individuals who is a Hispanic minority or that the other individual is from St. Cloud and attends a different congregation than I do. I hired two individuals that were absolutely qualified for their jobs and also happened to be Mormon. Two out of numerous hires that I have made across different departments at the utility. I grew up Catholic, my wife's family is Lutheran, we have attended many wonderful functions at the Assembly of God Church. Do you know how many people I hired who belonged to these churches? No you don't. And neither do I. And that is because a person's religious affiliations should not be a factor in hiring -- or firing -- someone.
I have been told that there is concern regarding the amount of time that I worked. I am a salaried employee, and that means that I set my hours and work whatever it takes to get the job done. Most other utilities this size have a general manager, a CFO, and an operations manager. All of these responsibilities were on my plate. From the time I was hired I was told that these positions, which were vacant, needed to be filled. But they have not. Because of this it has been impossible to accomplish my responsibilities in a 40 hour week. I have routinely worked 50, 60 and many 70 hour weeks. The WMU Policy Manual allows salaried employees to accumulate comp time. But I have never been in a position where if I worked 70 hours one week that I could take 30 hours of comp time the next week. And because of the scrutiny and questioning from employees anytime I did choose to use a few hours of comp time -- I chose instead to routinely use my PDO time when I needed a few hours of personal time. All of this is easily verified. And it is personally very upsetting to hear rumors that I was not putting in the time when in fact I routinely put in an excessive amount of time.
I think that Willmar Municipal Utilities is a great utility and a benefit to this community. I think that the majority of employees at the utility are honest and hard-working individuals who have treated me very good as their manager. It is very disappointing that the actions of a few could cause so much harm. But I feel it is my ethical responsibility to answer to the public for whatever concerns they may have. If you personally would like to ask me, write a letter to the editor, comment on this article -- however you choose to ask me -- I will try to honestly answer you -- as much as I am allowed by the law.
Bruce Gomm is currently the general manager of the Willmar Municipal Utilities. He has been on administrative leave since Dec. 12 pending an investigation.