Tuesday , 22 August 2017

City Manager’s Performance Review Reveals Divided Opinion By City Council

McKinney City Manager Jason Gray
McKinney City Manager Jason Gray

Whether McKinney’s city manager is doing a good job or not depends on whom you ask. It appears that Jason Gray is quite the polarizing figure among McKinney City Council members, according to Gray’s recent 2013 performance review, obtained by TownSquareBuzz.com on Monday.

The documents show that Gray, McKinney’s city manager since 2011, received a decidedly mixed review from the city council members. Three members rate Gray’s performance poorly, while three others rate him highly. The other member’s review is mixed.

The city manager position is one similar to a company’s chief executive officer. The position in McKinney is hired by City Council and reports to City Council.

This year the council members rated Gray in eight areas: management of the organization, execution of policy, financial management, relations with the council, community relations, communications, leadership, and professionalism. Members rated Gray’s performance on a scale from 0-6, with 0 representing “unsatisfactory” and 6 representing “outstanding.” The individual members’ reviews are not identified by name. Each review is simply given a number to ensure council member anonymity.

Three of the members of council gave Gray zeros, ones and twos in nearly all categories. Three council members gave him fours, fives, and sixes. The remaining review had some positive, negative and average ratings. In every category, there was a significant gap in the ratings from one side of the scale to the other.

In fact, there is no one category of Gray’s review where all of the council members give Gray either a unanimously positive or negative rating. There is no consensus to be found.

Gray’s Communication With Council Members Questioned

One area where a drastic difference in ratings is seen is in Gray’s “relations with council.” Four of the council members rated Gray as “fair,” “poor” or “unsatisfactory” in this area. One council member gave Gray an “unsatisfactory” rating.” In the section for the council member’s comments, it reads: “Mr. Gray lied to the council and fails to communicate on integral issues the council must be apprised of.”

The council member also tells Gray in the “directions for improvement” section: “Tell the truth and respect the elected officials that serve the citizen of McKinney.”

Another council member gave Gray a “poor” rating in “relations with council.” That council member’s review says, “ The City Manager is generally responsive to Council inquiries. Action items brought before Council are often presented from the city manager’s expectation of result and information provided, however limited, supports the position. Ideas originating from Council, particularly contrarian views, tend to be frowned upon or ignored.”

The member added in the “directions for improvement” section: “The elected body ultimately has the charge for the course of the City. The City Manager should respect this and move the initiatives forward regardless of personal preference and number of work hours required to achieve the expected result.”

Another council member also gave Gray a “poor” rating in “relations with council.” That council member’s comments say, “CM (city manager) does not seem to have good relations with the council, in general, or maybe at a minimum the trust. I have not seen a concerted effort to enhance these relations to this point. An issue regarding honesty has come up recently with regards to a direct question, and an answer that was not true or accurate.”

“Coming to City Hall and seeing dark offices in the middle of the day is not a good representation of work ethic in the City.” – McKinney City Council Member

The council member’s “directions for improvement” does not mince words. It says, “COMMUNICATE! (Emphasis taken directly from the review) Do not go into a shell, do not get defensive, do not be afraid to the tell us your thoughts, do not be afraid that we cannot handle the truth, reach out on your own, be friendly and smile. Be open and honest, with concern of Council’s stance. If there is a disagreement, we can work through it in a professional manner, and ultimately end up with the best solution for the city.”

The three other council members rated Gray as “outstanding” and “excellent” in the “relations with council” section. One council member’s review says, “Mr. Gray is quick to share accounts of meeting held with individual council members, or requests received from individual council members with the full council, fostering open, transparent and open communication.”

Another council member’s review calls Gray’s relations with the council an “excellent performance.”

Gray’s Professionalism Attacked

Several council members also call Gray’s professionalism into question during that section of his review. One council member says that Gray “gets downgraded in the category of devoting time to the job in the office.”

The council member continues,  “It is the opinion of this member of Council that the CM job is not one that should be performed from home on the computer. The work from home scenario was a practice advocated for different department heads in the past, and in my opinion, it is a bad practice as it sends a negative message to subordinates who are in the office daily working while also attending late night meetings. This is an item that has to improve.

“Coming to City Hall and seeing dark offices in the middle of the day is not a good representation of work ethic in the City.”

Another council member gave Gray an “unsatisfactory” rating in “professionalism, stating, “Mr. Gray has challenged council authority and integrity when questioned on areas of concern and open records request.”

That council member also brings up Gray’s time spent in his city hall office. “He (Gray) has averaged less than 40 (hours) per week in the office and on occasion used vacation time to maintain city paid benefits. Mr. Gray must work a full week and be available to staff and external customers to fulfill the responsibilities of his office and the goals of the city council. He must adhere to the employment contract.”

Another council member, who gave Gray a “poor” rating, says Gray’s “devotion to the job, including time and energy is, at time, questionable.”

Gray received an “excellent” rating from the remaining three council members in “professionalism,” with one council member saying, “The CM is professional and unbiased in all community/business/employee and council member interactions.” The remaining two council members did not add a comment to their “excellent” ratings.

Critiquing Gray’s Community Involvement

Another issue that presents a vast divide between the council is in the “community relations” section. Four of the council members rate Gray as “fair”, “poor” or “unsatisfactory” in this area. The remaining three council members rate Gray as “good” or “excellent.”

“Gray has done a very good job of meeting community organization leaders/partners – including the media, the Chamber, County and ISD officials, etc.” – McKinney City Council Member

The council members who rated Gray negatively in this section each said that Gray does not attend enough city-related functions. One council member’s review says that Gray “has no presence in the community and little, if any, interaction with the media, community organizations, and the community at large.”

That council member also says of Gray, “Community involvement seems to be the lowest priority yet so essential to the success of the City Manager position.”

Another council member’s review says, “I am not aware of any substantive involvement by the CM outside of normal duties of City.” That council member tells Gray, “You live here in community, get involved and take some ownership.”

On the other hand, other council members say that Gray has done “a very good job of meeting community organization leaders/partners – including the media, the Chamber, County and ISD officials, etc.”

One council member, who rated Gray as “good” in “community relations” says that Gray has “a good understanding of community issues.” But the council member also adds in the “directions for improvement” section, “It appears that our CM sees exposure in public as ‘work.’ While I am 99% an ‘outstanding’ reviewer, I’d like to point out that the CM needs to enjoy what he does. This is not really a job performance issue until it appears that there is a conspicuous absence. I don’t want to see him at events as a ‘requirement of the job’, but as a happy, engaged participant.”

Gray’s Communications a Polarizing Topic

“Communications” is another area that shows the divide amongst the council members. Four of the council members rate Gray as “fair”, “poor” or “unsatisfactory” in this area. The remaining three council members rate Gray as “outstanding” or “excellent.”

One council member rated Gray as “unsatisfactory” in “communications.” The council member’s comments simply say, “Mr. Gray fails to communicate with council per his employment contract.”

Another council member gave Gray a “poor” rating in “communications” and said communications is “consistently the biggest complaint both from a council perspective and in reviewing employee surveys.” The council member’s comments state, “Information provided often appears to be guarded. Agenda items sometimes fail to attach PowerPoint (presentations) that are presented to Council the night of the meeting, which impacts level of trust and transparency with the public.”

Another council member gave Gray a “fair” rating, stating, “Facility of two-way communication is inconsistent at best. Exercising respect seems at times to be difficult to do.”

That sentiment was shared by another council member, who also rated Gray as “fair” in “communications.” The council member says, “The CM does not have a good history of responding to correspondence. Once CM responds, the response is generally good and clear. There is not an open two-way communication line, nor does it appear to be desired.”

The positive “communication” reviews do not provide any detail on the council member’s reasoning for rating Gray highly in that area.

Those diametrically opposed viewpoints are evident throughout Gray’s entire review.

Gray Responds to Review, Asks For $60,000 Raise

TSB also obtained Gray’s response to each council member’s review. For his part, Gray does appear to acknowledge that he needs to spend more time representing the city but denies the charges that he doesn’t spend enough time in the office, that he lied to the council, that he does not communicate effectively, and says he will work to remedy some of the issues that concern the council members.

In advance of his review, Gray sent an email to the seven city council members detailing his opinion on his job performance. In the memorandum, dated Oct. 27 and obtained by TSB on Monday, Gray speaks to his accomplishments in his nearly three years as McKinney’s city manager, including the development of the Craig Ranch Corporate Center, the relocation of Raytheon’s Space and Aiborne Systems headquarters to McKinney, providing strategy for “solving the Gateway Hotel & Event Center issues,” negotiating the airport purchase agreement for assets at McKinney National Airport and many other successes.

Gray also provided a “full compensation analysis” of the city manager position in surrounding cities. According to the salary matrix Gray provided to the council, Gray’s yearly salary plus benefits, totaling $206,275, was “roughly 23% ($61,000) below the market average.”

Gray said that he provided the salary comparison to “provide some ideas to you (the council) in how to address the gap in compensation.”

Gray asked the council for a raise of $60,000 and provided several options to reach “market average.” One option given was by increasing his base salary from $191,000 to $250,000. Another option was to give Gray a “one-time performance incentive” of $50,000.

McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller
McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller

Ultimately, the council elected not to give Gray a raise, according to Gray’s amended employment agreement, also obtained by TSB on Monday. The document, signed by both Gray and Mayor Brian Loughmiller on Nov. 19, states that Gray’s base salary will remain $191,000 but he will be given a $10,000 performance bonus “in recognition of significant work pertaining to certain priorities established by the City Council for the 2011 through 2013 calendar years.”

The document also has sections addressing some of the specific complaints raised by the council during the review process. There is a section titled, “Service Club and City Related Activities.” This section states that Gray is to participate in one service club (that meets in McKinney) of Gray’s choice. The section also states that the city will reimburse Gray for any expenses for membership in this club.

It also states that Gray “shall attend a reasonable number of city related community events as requested from time to time by the City Council.”

There is also a section entitled, “Hours of Work.” In this section, the City Council acknowledges that Gray “must devote a significant amount of time to the business of the City away from the Manager’s office in an effort to fulfill his responsibilities to the City including work outside of normal working hours. Recognizing the foregoing, the City Manager shall make all reasonable efforts to maintain normal office hours at the Offices of the City and shall be accessible during the hours of operation of the City of McKinney offices.”

The document also shows that Gray will be evaluated again by the end of February 2014 in addition to an annual performance review coinciding with the budget process.

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