Update: The City of McKinney has announced that City Manager Jason Gray resigned Monday night.
Occasionally I wish I could go back to just being a regular citizen who lives and works in McKinney – one who is not aware of all that goes on “behind the curtain,” so to speak, of city politics. Those days are gone. And as it turns out, on a regular basis I field calls from sources who want to talk, usually off the record, about the issues they face while going about the work of the city.
I frequently have to ask myself if the person with whom I’m conversing has a personal agenda – a grudge of sorts – to air or whether, after vetting, there appears to be a consistent thread that I hear during of conversations with a numbers of individuals. One of those “consistent threads” that continues to rear its ugly head is that it’s time for the exit of City Manager Jason Gray.
TownSquareBuzz.com posted a recent story about other cities in the Metroplex that have had their struggles with the position of city manager. McKinney is no different. It’s become more evident that the turmoil surrounding Gray’s tenure is not going away.
The McKinney Watchdog Political Action Committee has said it will not rest until Gray “is gone.” The PAC has posted documents that allege that Gray has mismanaged city funds and accuses him of practicing cronyism in his hiring practices. The group has filed a complaint against Gray with the International City Managers Association in Washington D.C.
But what I hear repeatedly, from sources who don’t want to be named within the city ranks, is that, on average, Gray devotes less than 40 hours at week at his job and is often absent until late morning the day following a council meeting. Although I’m told that one of his job requirements is to be out in the public eye, frequently attending city events, Gray has failed to live up to that expectation thus far. He has rarely been seen at any city functions during his three years as city manager.
I’ve heard a number of sources close to the situation say that Gray’s management style — one of micromanaging — fails to empower those under him. This has led to a number of high-level departures within city departments, something that the Watchdog PAC has labeled “brain drain.” That so-to-speak “brain drain” could certainly hinder our city’s ability to move forward as we must continue to replace and retrain leaders, getting them up to speed.
Clearly, as TSB showed you with the results of Gray’s Oct. 2013 job performance review, council members are divided in their assessment of Gray’s performance. Several gave Gray high marks, while three others gave him poor scores. One council member’s grade fell in the middle ground. These vast discrepancies in Gray’s review have raised eyebrows, as well as more questions, from the community.
From where I sit, trust has been eroded. Gray’s abrupt “reassignment” of then Chief of Police Doug Kowalski, followed by the appointment of his friend and then Deputy City Manager Joe Williams, may stink of the cronyism that the Watchdog PAC points out. But trust that the city manager would go through certain protocols was violated. Council was blindsided. None saw this coming. Gray never came out on record apologizing for his methods.
The continuing “brain drain” makes for difficult working conditions. Source after source has told me that they “fear for their job” if any negative words are spoken to the media, to council or to the public. Morale is low because of lack of trust and lack of empowerment of job performance. This comes from the top.
During last week’s council work session, Councilman Ray Ricchi (Dist. 4) raised numerous questions about the city’s purchase of the airport property, saying that he doesn’t feel the city executed due diligence prior to the purchase. Sources inside the city have said that Gray singlehandedly negotiated the deal with the airport and that city staff wasn’t involved until council approved it. Council had to rely on the information presented by one individual and not vetted by any others among city staff. That’s a huge amount of tax payer money to funnel into one project based on the recommendations of one individual functioning in a vacuum.
A former CEO of a large company has often said to me, “When you are considering firing someone, Angie, ask yourself the following questions … ”
- Have I provided the tools necessary for the individual to do the job?
- Is the individual capable of doing the job? In other words, does he or she have the mental capacity and appropriate training to do the job?
- Is he or she willing to do the job?
- Is the individual coachable?
So, Council, have you given Mr. Gray the specific instructions, guidelines, etc. that he needs as tools to perform the job of city manager successfully? I don’t know the answer to this, I’m just asking.
Is Mr. Gray intelligent enough to do the job? My assessment is that yes, absolutely he is. He’s capable and he has the education to support that capability.
In my opinion, it appears that Mr. Gray has refused to take the “coaching” that council and others have offered. It appears that he is unwilling to do that job in the manner that council has laid out. Perhaps that is his personal “work style” based on his personality profile. But if that is the case, and that work style is not a fit for our city, then it’s time to cut bait and start looking for a replacement.
To me, all this begs the question of where do we go from here? City Council, as you meet this evening to discuss Gray’s evaluation, step up and lead us as a community — make a decision. Public criticism and scrutiny come with the territory when it comes to being a public figure. Leadership often requires the ability to make tough decisions, and to me, this has become a question of leadership, or lack there-of.
Is it time to say good-bye to Gray, or do we allow him to continue in the role of our city manager? Mr. Mayor, put on your big boy boots and lead the council to a decision. If the decision is that Gray stays, tell us why and stick by that decision. The same goes if Gray must go.
We don’t need all the gory details either way, particularly in a personnel matter, however, give us the gist of where our city is going from here. We citizens may not agree, but we will have a concrete solution and we will respect you more for it.
Yes, Gray’s tenure has become like a splinter that festers under the skin. You try to ignore it, but it continues to irritate, making the surrounding skin sore, tender and uncomfortable. Once you finally dig it out, the relief is almost instantaneous. Some healing still remains to be done, but the cause of the pain is gone.
Angie Bado is founder and publisher of TownSquareBuzz.com