Accountability or micromanagement?

Trinity tries to strike balance
Apr. 14, 2013 @ 03:00 PM

Should Trinity’s employees keep more detailed records of their work, or are they stretched too thin as it is?
Some City Council members say they would like to see better documentation about how code-enforcement complaints are handled and work orders carried out, for example. The point is not to burden employees with paperwork, they say, but rather, to make things more efficient for everyone involved.
“I think the whole point is, we want things to be as simple as possible,” said Councilwoman Debbie Frazier. “The more we are able to communicate with staff and have them provide us with information, then everybody is on same page. That way, when constituents call to ask us questions, we have an answer for them.”
The council held a closed session on personnel matters last week, but took no action.
It delved into the accountability issue at its recent retreat, when Mayor Carlton Boyles pointed out to the council that Trinity’s six employees oversee a 17-square-mile area that includes 34 miles of sewer lines that must be maintained.
“You can micromanage and do all this record-keeping you ask for because you don’t trust the staff?” Boyles asked. “You’ve got a great manager and a great staff. I’m telling you, they work hard trying to cover a large, large area.”
The city has records it’s required to maintain for things like sewer right-of-way maintenance and safety checks of the 840 manholes associated with its sewer system.
City Manager Debbie Hinson has initiated a work-order system that would provide more information about how employees handle and resolve public complaints that come in about high grass or clutter on a property or a spot where trash has been illegally dumped, for instance.
Councilman Tommy Johnson said he believes this would provide enough information, but some of his colleagues want to go further and have staff keep maintenance logs, which is unnecessary, in his view.
“I think some of them want more detail about what the guys are doing,” Johnson said. “I would like to see us allow the city manager to manage and us stay out of that.”
Hinson, who became manager last year, said the city’s previous administration had no such record-keeping system and that she is trying to devise something that will be informative for the council and for residents.
“I realize our residents may not understand that we don’t just sit here and answer the telephone and file our nails, and these guys don’t just go out here and just ride around in the truck and drink coffee,” she said.