So, I’m assuming everyone’s already read all about the package of administrative reforms (PDF!) proposed by City Attorney John Russo and City Auditor Courtney Ruby in the newspaper, so I don’t really need to get into it that much.
Their reform package, like De La Fuente’s, might be seen by some, as Nancy Nadel suggested in her inane statement (PDF!) on the Edgerly matter, as “opportunistic power grabbing.” I wouldn’t characterize it that way – I mean, both packages are certainly opportunistic. But when you, like De La Fuente and Russo, have been trying for years to get anyone to listen to you and nobody will, then you’d be a fool not to seize a scandal like this as maybe your one and only chance to get people to take reform seriously. As Russo said last week:
There is nothing in this package that we have not, either together or separately, brought forward over the past several years. In fact, some of the changes we’re proposing on personnel were the administrative policy of this city earlier in this decade and were changed several years ago, in my estimation to the detriment of the public interest.
Anyway, for those who managed to miss it, Russo and Ruby held a press conference last week, in which they announced a package they’re calling “Real Oakland Administrative Reform” (ROAR). It includes:
- The whistleblower protection ordinance (PDF!), first introduced (PDF!) by Ignacio De La Fuente in February, and sponsored by Councilmembers De La Fuente and Kernighan, which will be passed by the City Council on Tuesday.
- An anti-nepotism ordinance (PDF!), to be sponsored by De La Fuente, which would broaden the anti-nepotism provisions found in the City Charter (PDF!) by covering a larger number of supervisors and wider spectrum of relationships. It would prohibit relatives from working in the same chain of command and from influencing the hiring of their relatives, as well as require certain disclosures at the time of hiring.
- Reform of flawed personnel department procedures to reduce taxpayer liability. See draft proposals here (PDF!), here (PDF!), and here (PDF!).
- An employee ethics program (PDF!) that includes mandatory ethics training for all supervisors. Much like the mandatory sexual harrassment training that I used to find myself having to sit through every year before I started working from home, I don’t really imagine that this will have any impact on anyone’s behavior. But you can’t blame them for trying.
And then one more, the one most interesting to me, personally, which is the reason I decided to write about this in the first place, reforming the City’s records management practice and policies. OMG, our records retention policy is so horrible. Russo agrees, saying at the press conference:
They way records are maintained in this City is not acceptable in a modern organization. There are all kinds of excuses about why it can’t be done, and I think they’re largely bogus and an excuse to preserve the current regime of non-accountability. Because when you don’t have the e-mails, no one ever actually does something. Things just magically happen and no one is responsible. It’s about transparency and it’s about accountability and the public’s right to know.
So part of this records reform is the creation of a Records Reform Group (PDF!) and a Records Management Review Task Force, which will consist of seven community members, including representatives supplied by the League of Women Voters, Society of Professional Journalists, Public Ethics Commission, Chamber of Commerce, and the Central Labor Council, and two members appointed by Councilmembers, one by Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and one appointed by Councilmember Jean Quan.
Okay, so this is great. Really, it is. But I have some concerns as well. I really hope that the records management policy review goes further than drawing self-evident conclusions about how records should be maintained longer and made more easily accessible to the public. My big concern about the task force is that the brief description in the document linked above makes no mention of the use of experts in the field of records management. It is entirely appropriate for the task force to feature citizens with a vested interest in better public information and public records, but it is hard to imagine that without records management professionals among their membership, they will come up with the best possible recommendations. Records management is a complicated field, and you need people who have worked in it to keep the group grounded as far as best practices, standard practices, what’s possible, what’s realistic and what’s not.
In my ideal world, I would like to see the Task Force expanded to include the community representatives mentioned above, and then also at least two other community members who are certified records managers whose expertise can guide the group to make better decisions. I don’t care who gets to appoint them. I also hope that whatever ends up coming to the Council and passing (Russo claims he wants the new records policy passed by the end of the calendar year) includes a recommendation to adopt a real integrated document management system for use by the entire City, like Interwoven.