First off, read my last blog on Los Angeles City Office of Finance: http://janbtucker.com/blog/2013/09/09/parkmaggedon-for-los-angeles/
Now, read what a former high level employee had to say about the chaos in that office when he retired and could no longer be disciplined or punished for expressing his viewpoint to management:
Date: February 27, 2009 To: Fellow employees
From: XXX XX
I wish to bid farewell to all of you with sadness. After 29 years of service to the City of Los Angeles, 28 years of which is dedicated to the Office of Finance-City Clerk Office, I have decided to retire effective today, a year earlier than I had planned. I am saddened because I felt like I am running away from my responsibility to you and all your struggles but I can no longer take the humiliation and insults from our current chiefs. I have gone through several chiefs before them and I have never felt this way.
Anyhow, I just want to thank each and every one of you, especially those that I have worked with for the longest time, those who consoled me during hard times and those that worked directly under my supervision and friends. You have all been great no matter what the bosses say. I consider you all professionals and should be treated with dignity.
For those that are bitter because you believed we, your principals, did not work hard for you and went to the extent of accusing us without any “backbones” and do not know how to motivate people and went further and accused us as incompetent that we should be disciplined. That is uncalled for but I will consider that as your frustration for everything that happened without regards to your feelings but believe me, we stood by you, with you, and voiced our objections to matters that we believed have merits and reasoned out for you but we were not successful. More often than not, we are shut down because this or that is what XXX’s want and our Chief II has verbalized that he couldn’t say no to XXX. He also said that he has many more years to go before thinking retirement. Listening to these words makes you wonder, will we ever really get an unbiased support from our Chief as he often said? I cannot help but wonder whether there was a deal stricken after the not so popular incident that causes the rescinding of an unpopular appointment for senior tax auditors? I have no faith that reasons will ever prevail under this circumstance. I often wonder whether or not XXX really is the perpetuator of everything our chiefs are obsessed to accomplish?
Everybody knew what happened and the consequence after that. People found out through the Civil Service Commission web site and read the ruling. What’s puzzling in the mind of all of us is that, instead of reverting back to his old position, this person was given the top position as a reward? How can you figure that out? Is that the reason they often threatened us in return?
We have always been threatened with disciplinary action or that our position would be taken away should we not do what we were dictated to say or write to you. One chief’s famous words were “my job or your job.” It goes without saying; we will be demoted first before they do. Simply, we’ll be reverted back to our former position. Isn’t that harassment? Often, he would even bring up the subject of our compensation. He would often say, “ this is why you are getting paid so much and you should do this or do that.” Can you imagine a person with his stature to even bring up the salary issue that has no relevance to issues being discussed and knowing that they get paid more themselves compared to ours? It’s really unnecessary and cruel, I think. They won’t listen to reasons because they focused more on the negative rather than the positive side of our jobs, like motivating you in a diplomatic way or a simple encouragement. We are constantly being judged rather than listened to. We are scolded more often than not. Can you imagine being scolded like a child? How would you feel? I cannot take it that is why I am retiring.
Just to give you a few examples. We have this project that was started during the time of XXXX and XXXXXXX. It was supposed to be a pilot project to determine the feasibility of using the list of AEA/AJE as an audit source. That took a year to complete and every month a report was prepared to show the result and at the end, when all the audits were finally completed, our Director said during our monthly meeting that we should continue and utilize the source AEA and may not continue with AJE due to less than desired recoveries. We thought that was it but it wasn’t.
Should employees be scolded like children? Management at the Office of Finance thinks so….
After the meeting with the executive management, we were called in to Mr. Cabrera’s office and guess what? He raised the piece of paper that showed the result of the pilot project and pointed in our face and started scolding us and saying “can anyone tell me about this or anyone explain to me about this? In my mind, what are you talking about? We were caught off guard; we don’t know what’s in his mind. I believed he expected us to read his mind. The Director’s words were that she believed the source is worth continuing and we heard her, but he started scolding us for unknown reasons. What’s wrong with just instructing us to continue using the same source and that should be it but he scolded us like kids before giving the same directive as our director? It’s like being judged without due process. Power?
Very recently the Senior Tax Auditors wrote a letter addressed to the Director. After we met with the executive management during our monthly meeting, we were called in again to a meeting in the office of XXXXXXX. Again, he started the meeting by raising the piece of paper, your letter and started scolding us for not doing something about your letter. As if we know what is in his mind? We told him we don’t have any knowledge of your letter but he was just incensed and blamed us for not acting on it. We responded that the letter was not addressed to us nor copied to us and if he wanted us to do something, he should have forwarded a copy to us. So you can see, how impossible to work under this circumstances. They pretty much rendered their judgment before listening to you. You are guilty until proven innocent. Isn’t that against the law? The scolding happens whether in person or over a conference call. When we tried to reason out, we were accused of not getting on board of what they are trying to accomplish. Accomplish what? Intimidate people? They even accused us of passing our responsibilities. I believed it’s the other way around.
You know what happened during the thanksgiving party? The gathering needed to be approved and that there should be a time range and a warning that the lunch should only be from 11:30 to 12:30 and that any time in excess should be made up or the auditors should file for a vacation. At 12:30 our chief ordered one principal to go to the lunchroom and make sure that every auditor are out. What happen to the make up time? I believed its over blown and unnecessary. Now, we can no longer hold gatherings without their approval and even worse, if you do, it cannot be exclusionary. For a potluck, are you going to invite the whole division? They really have taken away people’s right to impromptu gatherings as a way of releasing stress and camaraderie among the staff. It is really sad. I just cannot agree of what they are trying to accomplish. In the past, people would love to provide lunch after passing their probation but now, we cannot do that without their approval with so many restrictions.
Management by dominance?
One more sample of their appetite for dominance was when I requested a vacation for two days, Dec. 24th and Dec. 31st. Our chief said I couldn’t take it because she implemented a policy that vacation will not be allowed if there is a “Continuum with our RDO and holidays” and yet they allowed XXXXXXXX to take the Dec. 31st and the next day was a holiday and the 2nd in Jan. is her RDO. The 24th that I requested falls a day before the holiday, 25th and the 26th was my RDO. Furthermore, the chief took Nov. 24, 25, 26 before the thanksgiving holiday herself which is 27th and 28th. How can you be so ridiculously insane that it only applies to us and not them? I thought of filing a grievance but I forgo because of my pending retirement. Imagine if we enforce her policy to the whole audit unit and can you imagine how many grievances would have been filed? Are we not entitled to take a vacation at a time that we need most and not on their choosing? Isn’t that the reason why we accumulate our vacation so that we can take it when we needed most and not at their disposal? After further request she relented to my request for the Dec. 24 but not the 31. Imagine the hardship of coming to work on Dec. 29, take a vacation on Dec. 30 and coming back again on Dec. 31. Isn’t that a cruel thing to do? It should not happen to anyone.
Another incident happened to one principal who requested a three weeks vacation in November to be taken in January, the following year but this was denied, presumably because it overlaps with the chief’s vacation. That is very cruel because she has missed out on a promotional airfare that was to be taken otherwise loose it. That’s very hurting and very cruel and it should not go on like this. Again, it should not happen to anyone else. We saved our vacation time for the opportune time on our choosing and should not be theirs.
That’s how crazy the situation is and is very unbearable. We were so often told that we are manager of this office and should make a decision concerning our operations but on the contrary, every decision we make is subject to their scrutiny and approvals. Every word we say is scrutinized and dictated from the top and we were asked to put our signature on every mail or e-mails to the staff and even cautioned that the correspondence is coming from us and not from them. How clever can you be?
I am truly sorry for you guys that were affected by the 1st quarter performance review. All the negative messages were not ours but dictated from the top. We wanted to consider all your efforts but we were ordered not to, or else. As I have mentioned earlier, many times we were threatened with disciplinary action or we could be reverted back to our former position if we don’t do or follow their orders. We were accused of not getting on board on what they are trying to accomplish but how can you get on board if there is disagreement on how to get there. We disagreed on so many matrixes (performance evaluation factors) that they wanted to impose but we can’t do anything without being threatened and scolded more often than not. We disagreed on the mix of audits based on number of class and locations, field time etc. One time I mentioned during our executive meeting that the true mix of audits should be based on different classification or industry, Sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation. Within a fund/class there are different occupation or activities. Instead of being listened to, I got scolded.
So you see, my dear friends I felt like abandoning you but I have to take care of my health and sanity. To my associates, I wish I could stay to suffer with you but I have had enough of all the controlling, dictating, judging, and winning attitude of our powerful chiefs. It felt like they have to win and hate to loose instead of listening to reasons and work on a practical solutions.
Now we are even required to produce a weekly time analysis of our own. Detailing every minute of our existence. In other word, I felt like I have to justify my existence. We objected to this as a case of harassment due to unnecessary hardship and are giving us a hard time and also a definite case of discrimination because it was not imposed to other division’s Principal TCOs. I wonder what will come next. The reason we were given when we questioned the purpose or benefit for requiring us to provide our time analysis or actually daily activities was that they did not know what to respond to XXX when they were asked what the principals are doing. How can you believe that when they were principals themselves? They often tell us that we are doing a good job and they knew the hard work that we do everyday and yet they don’t know what to say in response to XXX? Was it XXX’s idea for us to submit our daily activities? I can only wonder.
At a later meeting regarding the time analysis, we were told that it’s a way to develop us to be a good manager. That is more insulting, imagine it’s like telling we are no good that is why they needed to look over our shoulder and see what we are doing on a daily basis. May be to pacify us a little, we were told that it’s going to be temporary, for how long? Can’t help but wonder? Temporary permanent?
Now they came up with two pages of what they termed PTA matrixes. Imagine, how many hours have they spent to come up with about 25 activity items that they came up to evaluate our performance. I am attaching it for your information and analysis if you may. Even worst, they requested and want us to give our comments and feedback on how we want them to evaluate our performances. How can they think that we have no brain and stupid enough to dig our own grave? Imagine how many hours they might have spent developing the minute details on what they want us to do our job and grade us item by item and points by points. If they had developed a plan for the betterment of the tax auditors and our operation, then, I would have gladly provided my comments and or feedbacks. Not in this case. Imagine, we if we have to detail all of the items in our time analysis so that they can scrutinize our activities everyday? This is really a case of mistrust and micro-management I think.
I read the response to your letter that was addressed to our director. In their response they said that they recognized the merits of your request for flex time in the field with each member of your crew. Instead of listening to you, you are still required to go out 24 minimum hours per quarter with each member of your crew to replace the 8-hours/mo minimums per month per crew member to allow you the flexibility to adjust your field time. My conclusion is that they think you are a bunch of stupid or dumb people to fall into this trap. What are they thinking?
I understood that the reason why you asked for flexibility is that different tax auditors, taking into consideration their experience, knowledge and length of services requires different degree of supervision and assistance in the field. Imagine, how many times would you have to go out with an auditor in a month just to meet the 8 hours when all they need is a simple direction and guidance that most often you are not required to stay and waste valuable time that can be spent with other crew member that needed your help the most. Aren’t they aware of the availability of communications by phone, landline and cell phones or even e-mails?
With or without the city’s current financial problems, the unnecessary mileage is a way of savings isn’t it? It’s hard enough to comply with the 8 hours minimum per tax auditor in a month and now they want you to spend 10, 12 or more hours to catch up with the 24 if you were not able to spend during your first or second month of any quarters? How can they be so ridiculous to think that these Senior Tax Auditors have no brain and stupid and can be easily manipulated? Remember; don’t ever accept that you are less than professionals. You have your education like them. I can not understand why the same chiefs who were seniors themselves during the time of our Chief, XXXXX XXXXXX, also objected to the same field time requirements of 20 to 25% and the reasons were that the field time has no bearing on the productions of the auditors and seniors alike. The seniors’ field time should be based on the needs of the auditors and not just to fill up your monthly time analyses.
Most auditors do not need their seniors to be with them most of the time and if there are any problems that need immediate solution, we have telephones to communicate with our auditors? I believe they couldn’t accept that and they thought that the only way to solve it is to go out in the field. I have a feeling that they are afraid to be branded as a loser. They are thinking it is a defeat for them. Everything it seems like they have to win instead of listening to reasons. Isn’t one performance evaluation criteria under the civil service was to discourage excessive supervision and encourage independence? A senior tax auditor can be very effective without the necessity of going out in the field. I think they cannot accept that because it’s what XXX wants? I wonder if they ever tried to explain this to XXX? Or, may be this is really their idea that they passed on to XXX that they have to sustain? I don’t think XXX is that unreasonable?
I am truly sorry to XXXXX XXX, who was given an unsatisfactory review (actually it was all written by our chief) because our top management’s insistence that we can only consider the crew’s production on a cut off date and disallowing audits that are completed at the end of the quarter but not yet billed and yet was not due to their fault. In their response to you regarding your Oct. 17, 2008 letter to the Director, they stated that the performance review is intended as a constructive feedback regarding individual performance. What happened to the constructive feedback when all they want us to focus is the negative side to justify the unsatisfactory performance? Much worst, the memo threatened the senior with corrective action, which is against my conscience because I knew for a fact that he was on tract when the unbilled items are recognized or taken into consideration. What justification can you demand from the senior when you knew for a fact that his crew has the necessary numbers, unfortunately not counted? This senior has contributed a lot during our early stages of LATAX. He developed this program so that auditors can utilize in the organization of their audit work papers. Yet, for one quarter, you make a judgment that this senior’s performance is unsatisfactory. I am really embarrassed. That goes with other tax auditors that were given such a warning.
How can you make a judgment of an individual’s performance after only 1 quarter? How can anyone know that you are not meeting your goal at the end of the fiscal year after only a month or a quarter? We are not prophets and have no power to predict the future. There is really no justification to do that without recognizing other factors that affected the performance goal. How can you make a fair evaluation when you are not allowed to recognize all the factors that affected the performances during the whole period, instead of any cut off date? This is what I can’t live with knowing that it is wrong, unjustifiable, cruel, and insensitive. Instead of motivating auditors, we get the ire of the tax auditors that resulted in bitterness and resentment, which is very hard to repair.
It’s really very hard to repair any damage that this action can do when I know for a fact that XXXXXX’s crew have completed enough audits but the management decided not to count due to the cut off date. Remember, the goal was for the fiscal year and not a monthly or quarterly goal. We should give you a constructive feedback on where you stand and needs to be done and not threaten you with corrective action and give you an unsatisfactory performance when it is known that you have the audits to support your efforts. It’s so frustrating that we cannot do what is right without being castigated. We are referred to as managers of these operating units but we are like puppets with strings attached to every part of our bodies.
You all know what happened next? Tax auditors that were affected filed grievances and they have to deal with this and it’s ongoing. People are filing for worker’s comp. Isn’t this a case of frustration and dissatisfaction with our management who want to develop us to be a good manager? Imagine the case of XXXXXX. This auditor was ready to retire but she was forced to move to the office audit on her last month without consideration for her physical impediment. Again, the reason given was, its what XXX wants. From what I remember, XXX made a suggestion and we reasoned out that it will not help her because she have to use her bad hand more so than just staying and try to complete her audit inventory. When the auditor failed to get their consent to stay in field audit the auditor filed for worker’s compensation and she had to withdraw her service retirement application to avail of the benefits. We could have gotten a replacement auditor already to help our production but what is happening? We are down by one body. Good manager?
We are now on the second quarter review. There are a few tax auditors that according to the crystal reports may lack sufficient number of audits based on averaging. Again, we have two quarters to go to try to meet our goal of 55. The principal(s) again have to write a memo according to their wishes and had been submitted to the chiefs for their scrutiny & approval. However, it has not come back to this writing. I believe it’s still in the hands of the personnel division. What’s holed up? I am not sure but hopefully grievances can be avoided. I like to close my message with a little friendly advice to you my friends.
Somewhere at the beginning of this message, I mentioned that you are professionals and I truly consider you as such. However, please refrain from excessive demonstration of your gripes with loud noises. You are only embarrassing yourselves and at the same time put your principals at an awkward position or even embarrassed them because of your seemingly uncontrollable tirades. Your tirades and repeated loud comments become annoying instead of getting empathy from your peers. I believe you should write to top management of what you dislike and not the seemingly unending loud noises of your gripes against the management. If you care for the people under you, please do something peacefully and not to incite other people by continually portraying the negatives and telling bad things instead of motivating them. I believe these people could make their own decision without you telling and inciting them. If you have a personal gripe, you don’t have the right to incite other people to advance your agenda. You may think you are helping them but in reality, you are ruining their career. That’s not professional, I think. They can see and feel for themselves and know what is good and beneficial for them. Remember, we are working for the City and not for a particular person. You have a responsibility to give back a fair return for the City’s investment on you.
I am retiring with sadness and believe me my heart bleeds for all of you. I wish our top management would learn to listen to you rather than be judging and give you guidance rather than dictating.