Rich Macke: In Port Arthur, calls for change have a shelf life

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, May 29, 2018

What is change?

Definition of Change: To make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.

So the question must be asked, who truly wants to see change?

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Frustrations about our community and decisions made by city of Port Arthur leadership are rampant over social media. The content posted on every city or politically focused Facebook page acts as a constant reminder to those frustrations.

We speak of wanted and needed change. Although as individuals we may disagree on the direction of that change needed, we all seek change. For discussion sake, let’s look at the last two city officials removed from office over the past six months.

Both former PA City Manager Brian McDougal and PAPD Police Chief Patrick Melvin were hired and/or approved by the Port Arthur City Council. To be clear, it was not our current City Council. While going through the interview process for their position, both were made to understand that council wanted accountability throughout city operations.

Concerns of corruption, racism, profiling, lack of accountability through the ranks were expected to take center stage for new management. The mandate: Basically adhere to the Mercer Report that cost the city nearly $500,000. It was the report that pointed to all the issues viewed at the city of Port Arthur.

Both men implemented much change the council said it wanted when they were hired. Yet both were asked to resign in lieu of a six-figure severance package as soon as the new City Council took control. To date, since June 1, 2017 this City Council has reached nearly $1 million in unbudgeted expenses — basically, $1 mllion of your taxpayer monies.

I would put that number up against cities across our nation of similar population size, and place a bet that this amount would rank up there with the highest. Maybe we should take a look at that?

The majority of that was paid to McDougal and Melvin to get rid of them. Whether citizens and city employees felt they were doing a good job or not is not the point. The City Council did not have enough documented wrongdoing on either man to straight out terminate them and save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars — .or they would have.

It’s not unlike the Forensic Audit political stunt that has yet to put anyone behind bars, as supporters intended. But what’s a few more hundred thousand dollars among friends?

With this City Council, the precedent has been set:

  • Get hired to a leadership position with the city.
  • Do the job you were asked to do by the hiring entity.
  • Wait for council member to begin receiving complaints that citizens don’t like or agree with the changes being made.
  • Wait for the City Council to pay you off to leave. And pay you off well!

PACC tries to show the perception of being unified when making these decisions. Of these decisions since June 1, 2017 the City Council has voted unanimously to pass or accept its outcome of each and every one. Well, at least publicly.

When we talk about change, it is widely understood that we need stronger leaders on City Council with a business mindset.

We need independent thinkers that won’t just go along with a majority vote to make it unanimous, even if you don’t agree. I say, “Go on record, be public and vote against the majority.” It might just get you re-elected.

Speaking of change, when will the City Council begin the search for a new city manager? June will mark six months since Harvey Robinson was named interim city manager. Six months was the amount of time given that Robinson would be in this position.

Council members have told me directly that he didn’t want the job full time. I understand the council’s desire to wait until former Councilman Will “Bae” Lewis was off the council to begin the search. That will make the search even a tad bit easier.

Now Lewis is gone. The council should begin this search before he tries to come back.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News.