A cornerstone of City Manager Elena Reyes’ first — and only — significant initiative has been quietly dropped.
Reyes, who is now in her 114th day of paid leave while the city sorts through personnel complaints lodged against her, hired a consultant that had revamped the San Joaquin County website to do the same for Manteca at a cost of $57,500 as well as develop a brand for Manteca that she contended was key for the city to land more private sector jobs.
Acting City Manager Greg Showerman confirmed that in the past month the consultant and the city had“amicably” parted ways. He noted that the work being done “wasn’t the right fit” for Manteca.
The consultant provided the city with the work that he had done and they negotiated a lower price than the original $57,500.
Showerman said the work will be finished by the people who started — in-house employees who voluntarily formed the Vision Manteca Team to identify city values and put in motion a plan to communicate those values to city residents long before Reyes arrived in the city manager’s office.
In her report to the City Council in September, Reyes noted, “branding is a key element to providing quality customer service. Brands connect to customers, forms focus, motivate employees, create an experience, are a promise, provide value, create consistency and recognition. Branding includes IT enhancements to the City’s website and social media throughout City government. The Vision Manteca Team has initiated identification of the City’s values, and are prepared to lead the Branding effort to completion.”
What made the entire episode questionable was how the employee group’s efforts were hijacked to justify hiring a consultant that Reyes worked with at San Joaquin County who had designed the county’s new website so he could design one for Manteca as well.
Reyes implied that the city’s existing website — that employees and not consultants created and had been rolled out eight months earlier — was ineffective. Yet the City Council at the time lavished nothing but praise on the employee created website.
The Manteca website that was purposely designed to allow the city’s 76,000 residents to quickly report problems, contact staff, play bills, and access information from the home page contrasts with the trendy San Joaquin County website that forces county residents to click into two or more pages before they can access similar information.
Reyes argued the city’s website should market Manteca. The employee generated website was based on the premise they are there to serve Manteca’s residents and existing businesses first and foremost.
Making the entire episode even more curious is how council members leaped at the chance to hire a consultant to not only do work city staff was already doing on the assumption the consultant was more of an expert but also to redo work staff did that council had just praised months earlier. This is the same council that routinely questions the need to hire consultants and implores staff to do work in-house whenever they can.
Meanwhile Reyes has earned $59,904 so far for not working. By the end of March she will have accrued 61.2 hours of vacation time while not working that will cost taxpayers $4,016.25. And should the city and Reyes part ways they will owe her $26,000 based on her contract that allowed her to start with 240 hours of accrued sick leave hours, and 160 hours of accrued vacation hours.
Then there is the little detail that her contract allows for her termination without cause only by an affirmative four-fifths vote of the City Council. If she is terminated while still willing and able to perform the duties of city manager she will receive a lump sum payment equal to 12 months of her salary. That would add another $191,800 to the total.
When all is said and done Reyes could pocket $280,000 for not working.
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