May 7, 2005
Two Scottsdale city councilmen said Friday they object to having evaluations of top city employees run through an outside consultant who attends confidential closed-door meetings.
The consultant’s attendance at the council’s executive sessions might violate state law, said Councilmen Bob Littlefield and Jim Lane.
State law restricts who can attend executive sessions, where confidential information is discussed, said Mary Jane Gregory, an Arizona assistant attorney general handling Open Meetings Law cases.
Aside from council members, the city manager, clerk, attorney and various other employees, only those "whose presence is reasonably necessary" to conduct the city’s business are permitted in executive sessions, the law states.
Officials could not say for certain whether Scottsdale’s consultant should have made the list as council members discussed whether City Attorney Joseph Bertoldo should be fired.
On Wednesday, Mayor Mary Manross issued a joint statement with Bertoldo announcing that the city attorney’s planned firing is scheduled for a public council vote May 17.
Littlefield and Lane said they registered their objections months ago to Manross’ decision to allow an outside consultant to dictate how evaluations take place, fearing the evaluations would be diluted.
"I had serious reservations about this," Lane said.
"I expressed those on a couple different occasions — on a (one-on-one) basis, not as a group."
The councilmen said they did not fight the decision openly because it was viewed as a concession for more formal evaluations than had been done in the past.
David C. Latshaw, a Paradise Valley consultant specializing in relations between city councils and city managers, is serving as "facilitator" during the performance evaluations of Scottsdale’s top employees.
When told of the facilitator last fall, Littlefield said he "complained instantly, because my . . . take on it was this was a way to blunt the performance review process."
City officials must explain how Latshaw was needed to make his presence at the meetings legitimate, Gregory said. Latshaw could not be reached for comment Friday.
Hiring a facilitator "was framed as an opportunity to try something new," said Neal Shearer, Scottsdale’s assistant city manager. Numerous cities across the country have started building their evaluations of administrators around facilitators, Shearer said.
Those consultants work as the liaison between the employee and the council, as well as between the individual elected officials, he said.
"That really could not take place as designed without Mr. Latshaw being part of that discussion," he said. However, whether Latshaw was necessary is up to the council.
"They’re very, very, very pleased, very pleased with the process," Manross said of Littlefield and Lane.
"They both told me."
The councilmen said they did not agree with that assessment.
Manross’ insistence made a facilitator a necessity, Lane said.
"If it was gonna happen, this is the way it was gonna happen," he said.