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Learning from the MUC crisis

As a concerned citizen attending (the Feb. 27) Municipal Utilities Commission meeting, I was sorry to learn how a less than open, perhaps arrogant-tending style of management (with "lapses" in communication to staff and commissioners) by the general manager, over time, deteriorated into misunderstandings, distrust, and eventual termination of his employment.

This personal issue was the primary focus of the full hour-long meeting. The general manager, Bruce Gomm, was given 30 minutes to respond verbally to the independent investigator's findings (developed from 21 interviews), but he chose to only speak for five minutes -- depending otherwise on his written response that was handed out to the commissioners.

One of the significant issues about Gomm's management was a less than forthright working dialogue with staff and commissioners. Apparently, there were troubling lapses in personnel policy formulations, hiring procedures, budgets, unaccounted absences, organizational restructuring without commission authorization, etc. Also, having learned that apparently Gomm carried a concealed firearm to work (albeit credentialed) seemed unwarranted -- as well as not within policy.

I would have liked Mr. Gomm to have discussed some of these issues in the time he did have to talk -- the meeting was held open to the public at his request. (I am still wondering why he found he could not work out differences with some supervisors on hiring issues, rather than having to "circumvent" their positions or responsibilities).

Overall, there seemed to be a consensus of regret that in the last year and a half, there was a developing unease over a management style that came to be distrusted because of autocratic tendencies which overshadowed some of the good work done in the areas of energy assurance for the city. The solid majority of the commissioners seemed to indicate their reconciliation and restoration of confidence could not now be re-established.

Very likely, both sides have learned from this unhappy situation.

Charles Miller