October 25, 2021

Artesia employees say city manager ‘unfit’ to lead, thwarts efforts to unionize

View Original Notice ? Artesia employees say city manager ‘unfit’ to lead, thwarts efforts to unionize

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Nine Artesia management employees have asked Mayor Rene J. Trevino to intervene amid complaints that City Manager William Rawlings is unfit to lead and has repeatedly stymied efforts by some workers to join a labor union.

The managers — from the planning, finance, parks and recreation, community development and administrative services departments, along with the City Clerk’s Office — presented the Artesia City Council with a letter last week detailing grievances against Rawlings.

Acting Assistant Finance Manager Karen Lee said Rawlings has “exhibited patterns of behavior that have led to our consensus that he is no longer fit to lead the city’s employees.”

Trevino declined to discuss the allegations against Rawlings because it is a personnel matter. “The city is working with the proposed bargaining units in accordance with the procedures established by the city’s resolution governing employer-employee relations,” he said Wednesday, Oct. 13, in an email.

Rawlings, who was hired in 2013, did not respond to requests for comment. Rawlings received $282,624 in salary and benefits in 2019, which is the most recent year that figures are available on the website of Transparent California, a public employee pay database. Before joining Artesia, he was the city manager of Menifee in Riverside County.

During a meeting last week, Lee told the City Council that Rawlings has submitted budgets to the City Council that fail to include Artesia’s actual expenditures.

The city manager has presented information to the City Council that raises “concerns from staff about transparency and truthfulness,” she said.

Lee also accused Rawlings of intimidating, berating and belittling employees as well as staying away from City Hall during the COVID-19 pandemic while requiring staff to be present.

“We were without the city manager’s presence on-site for leadership and support for 12 months until there was public outcry,” she added. “To this date he has not convened a collective management meeting, either in person or virtually, for over 18 months.”

Furthermore, Rawlings has damaged the city’s reputation by directing employees to take actions that run counter to the advice of senior staff members, the city’s attorney, consultants and community members, Lee alleges.

“The city manager has manipulated the grievance process so that all complaints go to him even if he is the subject of the grievance, thereby leaving employees without recourse to address a legitimate complaint and protect him from accountability,” she said in an email to the Southern California News Group.

Rawlings also has allegedly refused to accept a petition from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to recognize the management workers’ efforts to unionize.

That prompted Lee to present signed union interest cards last week from nine of the city’s 13 management employees and the AFSCME petition directly to Trevino. “We are asking for the City Council’s help by stepping in and filling the role that the city manager has refused to fulfill,” she said.

Lee’s complaint follows a unanimous vote of no confidence against Rawlings in September from AFSCME Local 1520, which already represents 20 rank-and-file employees in the 1.6-square-mile community.

“The employees have been trying to warn the city about what’s going on,” Andrew Perry, an administrative analyst for Local 1520, said in a statement. “They’ve reported severe allegations — ranging from election fraud, harassment, discrimination, and the overall sense that the city manager is trying to run this city like a mob boss. Bill Rawlings is not good for this city.”

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