Secret job evaluations shouldn’t be - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Secret job evaluations shouldn’t be

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Posted: Friday, January 12, 2007 5:39 am | Updated: 7:52 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

There are job evaluations and there are job evaluations. The Iraq Study Group report is a type of one, examining how well a certain chief executive has been handling the war in the Middle East.

It’s 112 pages long and available at your local bookstore.

College professors’ teaching methods are often rated by dozens of students on lengthy questionnaires. Leo Tolstoy might well be impressed if not humbled by such verbiage.

However, in Scottsdale, the higher up you go, the less detail there is. No written documentation exists on the city’s four highest-paid officials’ performances, at least as far as anyone knows. Yet on Tuesday, the City Council is expected to vote on giving them all pay raises.

Strange. Other city workers with less weighty responsibilities than the city manager, city attorney, city auditor and city clerk get written evaluations.

And so the only people who know how well the city’s top employees are doing are the members of the council.

They talked it all over in closed session, which is allowed under Arizona’s Open Meetings Law. The only thing that’s in public — and the law calls for this — is their voting on it, which is what they are expected to do Tuesday.

Written records of city employees’ performances would be public records, of course. In 2004, the Tribune sued the city to obtain a copy of a former Scottsdale police officer’s written evaluation — yes, police officers get them, but the city manager and city attorney do not — to learn what his supervisors thought of his performance while on duty.

The Tribune ultimately got the written evaluation it asked for, and a judge ordered the city to pay its attorneys’ fees because the city was found to have been “arbitrary and capricious” in its denial of the newspaper’s request, according to the judge.

So if a police officer’s evaluation is a public record, then the media, or any member of the public, should be able to request and see a written evaluation of city employees far higher up the ladder.

That is, if there is such a document.

On the advice of an independent law firm, the city wouldn’t even release City Manager Jan Dolan’s written self-evaluation.

Councilman Bob Littlefield said Thursday that the process is “way too secret.”

An 8 percent raise is proposed for Dolan, he said, but the public isn’t able to know what the discussion was that determined that figure. Revealing that, he said, would violate the Open Meetings Law.

Councilman Jim Lane said Thursday he intends to have the question of the pay raises taken off Tuesday’s consent agenda and set for discussion rather than for a vote only.

Lane and Littlefield said they favor the council writing a report about the evaluations that can be legally released.

“It may not have everything in it, but it will at least have a summary of what everybody had to say,” Littlefield said.

At least. The very least.

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