Community Letter regarding Fire Chief Retirement
From the Office of the City Manager
August 2, 2019
Dear Santa Clara Community,
Once again, the Santa Clara Weekly’s opinion piece, authored by Mr. Miles Barber, gave a completely fabricated set of facts and, this time, about our respected former Fire Chief Bill Kelly and esteemed City employees. Amongst other untruths, Mr. Barber wrongly suggested that I planned for former Fire Chief Kelly’s retirement and replacement without his knowledge by advertising the Fire Chief vacant position in late April 2019. Without any effort to seek the facts from former Fire Chief Kelly’s employer, the City of Santa Clara, Mr. Barber writes about a set of events that did not happen. Mr. Barber is welcome to his opinion but, when he makes up his own set of facts, the City must respond. Santa Clarans deserve accurate information, which I am providing in this letter.
With all due respect to former Fire Chief Kelly, and after discussing with him personally last night about the errors in Mr. Barber’s opinion piece, I am releasing the emails between us that prove that after over 30 years of serving Santa Clara, former Fire Chief Kelly began discussing with me in mid-December 2018 his plans to retire in Spring 2019. The emails between us demonstrate that I not only requested that he stay through June 2019, but that we worked collaboratively together on key milestones to ensure a smooth transition (Attachment 1).
By early January 2019, I had already begun a competitive procurement process to select a professional recruiter. In January, I selected Ms. Valerie Gaeta-Phillips of Bob Murray & Associates (BMA) to administer this recruitment. On January 24, after BMA prematurely announced the upcoming “Fire Chief” recruitment, without any coordination with the City of Santa Clara, I quickly terminated efforts to enter into contract with BMA because of the gross error. The messages between Ms. Gaeta-Phillips and I are attached and substantiate the facts behind the unfortunate premature release of former Fire Chief Kelly’s planned retirement (Attachment 2).
Former Fire Chief Kelly announced his retirement in late January and we began to implement a robust community and employee engagement process for seeking input on the characteristics desired for the new Fire Chief and the state of operational issues from employees. The records show that in early February, former Fire Chief Kelly and I met to continue discussion about his retirement and our work to plan meetings with employees. On February 7, he sent a series of fire station locations to hold these meetings (Attachment 3).
On February 20, I announced the community survey had been posted on the City’s Open Gov online platform, asking for residents to participate in the “Community Input on Next Fire Chief” (Attachment 4). On the same day, I sent out an email to Fire Department staff announcing my desire to meet with employees on the process to select the new Fire Chief and to receive their input. Employees were offered an online survey and the opportunity to participate at four employee meetings held on March 6 or March 8 (Attachment 5). I met with over 100 Fire Department staff and I received high-quality input. After receiving input from the community and employees, the Fire Chief job description was completed and advertised with an application due date of April 14 for all applications. Interviews were held in May. See the attachment regarding the recruitment (Attachment 6).
The emails show that Mr. Barber’s account of what happened is completely false. No late-April meeting ever took place where former Fire Chief Kelly first told me about his planned retirement. As the true professional that former Fire Chief Kelly is, he began discussions with me about his planned retirement in mid-December so that we could plan an orderly transition. I encouraged him to stay longer so that we could fill a key Deputy Chief position, complete the proposed FY 2019/20 department budget, and enable a thorough recruitment process. And, when he requested a bit more time past June, I gladly granted him that time.
Lastly, just like Mr. Barber’s facts are entirely wrong about the events surrounding former Fire Chief Kelly’s retirement, there are also wrong attributes about Santa Clara’s employees. In the true Santa Clara Way, our newly appointed Fire Chief Torres has been welcomed by the City Council, City employees and our community.
While Mr. Barber purports to know about the City of Santa Clara employees’ opinions and how they are feeling,
he apparently has bad sources or anecdotes. It is worth noting that I am the first City Manager ever to have completed a statistically valid Citywide Employee Survey, (using EMC Research, a reputable market research and data analytics firm), because I believe strongly in hearing from our employees about how they feel about working for and in Santa Clara. I took the time to hear directly from employees and allow them to voice their concerns and opinions about the City of Santa Clara as an employer because it is important to make informed decisions and represent the sentiments of our employees accurately and with valid data. Our City employees’ input is important to me in making sure that Santa Clara is a good employer and that we serve our community well. The results are overwhelmingly positive from City employees and I look forward to EMC Research presenting them to the Council and community. My hope is that the next time Mr. Barber decides to write an opinion piece about our City employees, that it be data-driven, based on accurate facts, and responsible to our hard-working and committed employees and retirees.
In community spirit,
Deanna J. Santana