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City 'not too worried' about staff turnover

Data on the reasons people stop working for the city of Milwaukie helps put the wave of recent resignations in perspective, officials say.

As part of an investigation into management concerns (‘Dysfunction’ at Milwaukie City Hall? Nov. 13), Human Resources Director Gary Rebello completed a review of terminations during two three-year periods. The City Council hired Bill Monahan as city manager in late 2010, so Rebello looked at the three years of Monahan’s leadership in Milwaukie compared with the previous three-year period.

Rebello said he was “not too worried about” the “very low” 3.2 percent annual rate of city employees leaving for other jobs over the past three years (see below for breakdown of reasons). He suggested that a larger issue may be the city’s aging work force.

“Turnover data from 2008-10 is very similar to the turnover data from 2010-13, other than there were fewer retirements in the earlier time period,” Rebello said. “I don’t see any spike in people leaving that would cause me any great concern. If you got that rate too low then you’re not getting enough new blood in an organization.”

City Councilor Dave Hedges pointed out that seven senior officials leaving in the past couple of years prompted the City Council’s concern. Hedges said that he had heard directly from police Chief Bob Jordan that he originally had been planning to retire in September 2015 upon seeing his son go to college, so Hedges argued there may be others who have retired early.

“I don’t believe in coincidences, and there’s got to be some underlying reason for the number of people in management positions who have left,” Hedges said.

When asked why he thought so many senior staff members have been leaving lately, City Councilor Mark Gamba replied that he thought that it has more to do with elected officials’ interaction with city staff than with how Monahan has been running the city.

“The city manager is only a little bit at fault in this situation, in my opinion, because he hasn’t been doing enough to protect staff,” Gamba said.

Rebello points out that, in the earlier time period, the city also had some high-level departures: Police Capt. Jim Colt (1981-2009), Police Chief Larry Kanzler (1999-2008), a human-resources director, and a finance director.

“We seemed to have been going through a finance director every two or three years before we started sharing those services with West Linn (in 2011),” Hedges said. “As for Capt. Colt and Chief Kanzler, they both retired after serving the city for a long time.”

On Thursday, Nov. 21, the City Council is again scheduled to discuss the possibility of hiring a consultant for a deeper investigation into management issues. Milwaukie is a small city with only about 135 total employees, so city officials say its size also may contribute to a higher turnover rate.

“Leaving is an alternative, and it certainly beats staying here and remaining unhappy,” Rebello said. “For some people, there are more career opportunities at a larger city.”

Milwaukie employee turnover 2011-13

A total of 44 separations from city employment

16 retirements

8 fired

13 left for a new job

2 layoffs (mechanics outsourced to Clackamas Fire)

2 moved out of state

1 wanted to stay home with family

1 health-related

1 resigned (no reason given)

Milwaukie employee turnover 2008-10

A total of 31 separations from city employment

7 retirements

10 fired

10 left for a new job

1 health-related

1 death

1 personal

1 resigned (no reason given)