The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


August 16, 2013

Janet Morgan-Burlingame, guest columnist: Put council on notice, then vote accordingly

JOPLIN, Mo. — I’ve always thought that one Burlingame expressing opinions in The Joplin Globe was probably enough and, as a result, I have not expressed my views publicly, except on one occasion to praise a city employee.

However, the recent Joplin City Council actions are so appalling to me, I am now compelled to speak out.

As noted in Tuesday’s Joplin Globe, the column authored by my husband, Anson, referenced my summation of the Joplin City Council shenanigans as the Keystone Kops who were noted, for those who don’t remember, for their incompetence. (Also, think the Three Stooges.) After several days of following events, in my opinion, my characterization remains unchanged.

With the recent events, I have found myself reflecting on the experiences of my professional career — the large majority of which, I managed people to achieve the objectives of the corporation for which I worked. The principles of management remain unchanged regardless of the organization, be it private or public, if for no other reason than it is the people in the organization who work together to accomplish their own professional goals and the goals of the organization.

Which brings me to my first point on the City Council’s “management.” How can someone be fired from an organization if no clear performance objectives have been agreed upon (between both the employee and employer) with timely reviews? And at the time of each timely performance review, give the employee the appropriate direction of how to improve their performance if needed. In other words, how can the City Council attempt to fire Mark Rohr with no agreed upon, written objectives? Further, how can they give him a merit increase in his compensation which, quite literally, says, “You are entitled to and have earned an increase in pay”? If I had attempted what the City Council did in my professional career, I, as the manager, would have been put on a performance improvement plan. I would have been held accountable and correctly so.

Further, this whole fiasco has been shrouded in closed meetings and back alley dealing. This should not be a secret process. And particularly not in a public organization like our city government! Employee and employer goals must coincide with the objectives of the organization. In this case, it is a public organization — the city of Joplin. Therefore, any performance objectives and other actions pertaining to the employee must be a matter of public awareness since it is the public that is being served.

Which brings me to my second point: Where do we go from here? Mark Rohr has the respect and gratitude of the majority of the citizens of Joplin. A certain group in the Joplin City Council do not. Many people have called for recalling the City Council. I am not sure of that process, but my guess is that it is difficult and expensive to do. But what we can do easily is not forget what has happened here and vote accordingly next election. It seems to me the City Council has been put on notice that their wrongful actions are noticed by the Joplin citizenry, and we will speak out.

As a result, perhaps this travesty will be over. But when election time comes, let’s not forget what has happened here and vote those who are responsible out of office. In the meantime, how do we change our city government to one that elects its mayor rather than appointing a mayor to be the puppet for those who have an agenda of their own rather than what is best for Joplin? A suggestion for prospective mayor: One who can tell the truth.

Janet Morgan-Burlingame lives in Joplin.

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