Jennifer Hennessy is incompetent – she can’t do her job and Burkland says she doesn’t have to

15 Jul

I’ll never forget my first real job – a clerical position at a manufacturing plant. I would compare it to the story of the miller’s daughter. On the first day, I was told that the employee I was to be replacing would stick around for a week to train me. At noon that day, having shown me where everything was and how to use the coffee maker, she got up from her chair, smiled, and told me she thought I could “handle it,” then left. At one o’clock, the plant manager came over to my desk followed by several “production” workers. They brought cart loads of microfilm, on rolls, in little white boxes. I was to label all of those boxes, three carts, piled high. This job had gotten held up, he explained, it would be “great!” if it could go out today.   Did I think I could get them done by 4 o’clock?  I wanted to make everybody happy, so said I yes without thinking, and set to work loading the labels into the typewriter.

It was a disaster. I had never typed anything like those labels before – typing class had been all about letters and envelopes, columns and reports. The labels skittered all over the platen, getting glue all over the inside of the typewriter. About every 50 or so labels, the platen had to be taken out and cleaned with alcohol. I typed and typed.   By 3 o’clock I knew I was in trouble. The production workers had come over to my desk to help me affix the sticky labels. We were nervous, labels were getting screwed up. At 3:30 the office manager and receptionist came back to my desk to help with the labels. I typed and typed, and tried not to cry.

We didn’t make it. The plant manager was flustered. The salesman who’d promised the job was really pissed off, he said mean things.  I apologized again and again, they told me it wasn’t all my fault, but could I please be more careful what I committed myself to in future. I could tell they also expected me to get a hell of a lot faster, but they were just trying to be nice.

So, I got faster. I came in early in the morning and worked through lunch until I got better at my job. I had signed up for a typing job, nobody had described all the weird stuff they expected me to type.  It started with typing and labeling, not only sticky labels, but microfiche jackets. They have a little quarter inch tall label strip across the top that chips and peels if you aren’t careful loading them into the typewriter, and strips or frames of 35 and 16 mm film  that falls out in your typewriter. Then there were the three-part work orders, with carbon paper, and the  three-part shipping labels, also with carbon paper. There were the mistakes – whole orders that had been indexed incorrectly, and therefore typed incorrectly, and therefore had to be corrected and typed all over again. I won’t describe what I had to go through to correct microfiche labels, it was too stupid.  I hated doing that, so I asked for my own little “eye-loup” – a little magnifier that you hold up to a light to look at the tiny little page numbers on the film – to make sure the cards had been indexed correctly before I typed them.

I’m not perfect, but I know I’m competent, cause I kept that job for five years while I watched others get fired, for everything from showing up late to breaking expensive equipment to stealing. I was given new jobs and increased responsibility as time went by.  I got good job reviews from my supervisors, and good raises.  Morale was high, we liked our co-workers and our managers, we felt like a team. Our customers were nice to us too. We worked for cities and counties, hospitals, banks – anybody who needed to keep records. We were trusted to handle confidential records, like people’s medical records. As we handled these confidential files we were simply told, “Don’t look at them,” so we didn’t. 

I left in 1984 in finish school. Over the next decade computers killed the microfilm industry, and the company went out of business. 

Excuse me if I compare my experiences in the private sector with stuff I’ve seen coming out of our city $taff. I keep waiting for some professional behavior, some professional accountability out of the people who run our town, and I start to wonder if I will ever get it. For a couple of months now, Toby Schindelbeck and Stephanie Taber, among others, have been asking council and Finance MisDirector Jennifer Hennessy to provide a simple accounting of city finances, as is required by the city charter, and she just plain refuses to give it. City Mangler Dave Burkland won’t make her. 

Last month she actually admitted, she is UNABLE to do it. At the June 5 meeting she admitted that she is incompetent to follow the city charter. She said that when she came to her position seven years ago, she “struggled” with doing such a report – something every house wife does – and went whining to then-city-manager Tom Lando, who apparently patted her on the head and told her she didn’t have to do it anymore. 

I don’t know about you guys, but I go over my check book every month, just to make sure everything is straight. I’ve found big, dumb mistakes, in the 100’s column even, that could have caused big, dumb problems down the road.  I’m no math instructor, like Mary Goloff, but it’s not exactly rocket science – you just add your deposits and subtract your checks and withdrawals. I’ll admit, when my kids were little, I felt like I never had time to do that, and stuff would get screwed up.  So now that I’ve got time, I make it a regularly scheduled event, and it’s amazing how much easier it is. And, I can keep the figures in my head, I know essentially how much I can afford to spend when I’m at the grocery store, or what kind of activities we can plan. My husband and son are enjoying a weekend trip right now that is already paid for, thankyouverymuch. 

But Jennifer Hennessy is unable to do that? And she has expectable stuff – over 80 percent of her budget is payroll. She doesn’t have that many emergencies.  The biggest emergency she’s had lately, is that the state has taken back the fund she’s been mis-using – the RDA. She was paying salaries and benefits out of a fund that’s supposed to be reserved for emergency public works projects. In other words, she’s been dipping into the till to pay her own salary!  

The mayor is to blame here, she’s the captain of our ship. Unfortunately, like the captain of the Costa Concordia, she’s abandoned ship for a party onshore. While she and her college chums bully their bag ban down our throats, our ship is sinking. We have less than $200,000 in our reserve fund, we have un-secured pension obligations totaling in the millions and growing every day, and we have  $taff who are using blackmail to get their way – they are just refusing to do their jobs. Hennessy won’t give the report she’s required to give because it’s BAD. I think the mayor is completely behind her on this – Ann Schwab doesn’t want us to hear that report either. Would you? 

Please write a letter to council demanding that Hennessy do her job, or get out. 

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