Tuesday, July 23, 2002

A look at Lemmie

Out of the loop at City Hall

        Valerie Lemmie makes a better hugger than a talker.

        Cincinnati's city manager can nimbly get her hands on people to give them a hug.

        But she can't seem to get a handle on communicating.

        The latest communications breakdown involving the city manager surfaced at the start of the Lt. Col. Ron Twitty incident.

        That's where Police Chief Tom Streicher placed Col. Twitty — the department's highest ranking black officer — on administrative leave and asked the Hamilton County sheriff to investigate the assistant chief.

        Acting first and following the chain of command later, the police chief then told his boss, the city manager, what he did.

        Then, she told her boss, Mayor Charlie Luken.

        The mayor got the word just three hours before news of the incident was made public.

        Three hours warning doesn't leave much time for communicating, for taking into account Cincinnati's highly sensitive racial climate.

        Sounds like the people running Cincinnati are not clearly communicating what they expect from city employees.

Try talking

        This failure to communicate reminds me of the Cherie Isaacs saga.

        Cherie's been a loyal city employee for 22 1/2 years.

        In May 1991, she became the secretary to the city manager. She served five managers, two acting and three full-fledged administrators.

        Cheri worked for Valerie Lemmie for 2 1/2 weeks before being summarily transferred to her present job, administering to personnel needs at the Metropolitan Sewer District.

        A reasonable person, Cherie knows that employees such as herself “serve at the pleasure of the city manager.”

        The sticking point is not the transfer. It's her treatment.

You're moving

        Cherie learned about the transfer by phone.

        The call came from an employee of the city's personnel department. She told Cherie she heard she was leaving her City Hall post in two days. That was news to Cherie.

        The city manager never told Cherie she was dissatisfied with her work.

        Valerie Lemmie had some issues about a car with a dead battery in her parking space and not having office keys.

        But, Cherie only heard that these were problems after she started her new job.

        “She never spent any time with me,” Cherie noted. “I didn't know her expectations.”

        Before Cherie left for the sewer district, the city manager never thanked her for her 11 years at City Hall. She didn't even give her a goodbye hug.

        At the end of Cherie's last day, the city manager left her with these parting words: “Have a nice weekend.”

        Cherie wanted to hear her reasons for the transfer.

        “I would have felt so much better,” she told me. “I'm just baffled. I didn't have an opportunity to know why.”

        The city manager has said she doesn't blame her former secretary for the keys problem.

        “It wasn't her fault,” the city manager has said. “It's me.”

        That's her “my bad” defense. The city manager also used it with the Col. Twitty incident, in saying, “We can often look back on what transpired and find better ways of doing it.”

        That's a sorry excuse. The taxpayers are footing the bill for her annual salary of $176,000. She's being paid to get things right the first time.

        Three months after the transfer, Cherie's “happy to not be in City Hall.”

        She doesn't miss the politics, the low morale or the 10-12 hour days.

        Since her transfer, Cherie has seen the city manager.

        They have spoken. Cordial words have been exchanged.

        But no hugs.

        Or communication.

        Call Cliff Radel at 768-8379; or e-mail: cradel@enquirer.com.


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