Useless Conferences

I love going to conferences!


New procurement card policies are being implemented at City Hall this week.  That’s a good start and something to be cautiously optimistic about.

Until such changes extend to the merits of things like conferences and travel, any such reform will be of limited value because it’s all interrelated.  Employees from all departments have had a reputation of being sent to conferences, staying for a couple hours, then skipping out on the rest to play tourist, play golf, or be entertained.  Some have joked about these trips being “paycations” — as in the City pays them to go on vacation.

CalNENA is the California chapter of the National Emergency Number Association, a trade organization for 911 dispatchers.  Without any consideration for the City’s bleak financial outlook, or the value of such a trip, the Police Department sent two dispatchers to the annual conference in San Diego.  That shouldn’t be too expensive, right?

$1,467 for hotel rooms and parking, $1,200 for conference registration, $93.84 for mileage reimbursement, and probably $4,000 to 6,000 in wages, benefits, and potential overtime paid out to other employees to cover their absences.  Their union agreement has a provision that considers it a full workweek if they attend training for 3+ consecutive days.  I assume that provision applies here.

Ballpark cost of attending = $6,500 to 8,500.  So what did the City of Fullerton gain from this trip?  You tell me…

Go here: CalNENA 2017 Conference Agenda and click View Details.

Monday.  There’s no evidence in either the P-Card reports or the Check Registers that we paid extra for the “Exclusive Training Courses” or the Industry Leaders’ Forum, which ran about $100 extra per event, per person.  It’s a safe bet the only “benefit” derived was the Aloha Mixer.

Tuesday.  Practically nothing of value takes place.
Wednesday.  A couple classes that might possibly have value, but again require separate payment and registration.  No evidence we paid for either one.
Thursday.  Same story as Wednesday.

Tuesday’s keynote address was entitled: “Everyday Superheroes: The Resilient Front Line” by some guy named Adam Timm.  We have actual footage from his pep talk.   Don’t miss the part starting at 2:28 where he dons a Superman t-shirt.

I didn’t hear anything in that short clip that isn’t already common sense.  His pep talk sounds a lot like wisdom gleaned from $9.99 best sellers at the grocery store checkout.

Conference attendance and travel ought to meet a demonstrable need that can’t be found anywhere else.  There’s no reason to attend if the same insights can be found on the internet, in books, or by asking your peers for advice.  The City should also be asking themselves if it’s the City’s duty to pay for such conferences and travel.  Does the value of attending accrue to the City or the individual employee?  If it’s the latter, the individual employee should be paying the costs themselves.

That’s Fullerton’s problem, the City doesn’t seem to care what, if any, benefits are derived from going to conferences.  We just send people anyway.  Let’s hope change is in the works.

17 Replies to “Useless Conferences”

  1. I agree. There are thousands of sources of self-help jibber jabber like this available for cheap or free online. There’s no reason for these people to travel to a nice hotel and take a week off for this garbage.

  2. I agree with you Mr. JD.
    They are useless and just another way to screw around with each other , undercover nasty dogs, take holidays and party.

    1. Excellent point. And how on Earth does one become a “professional” dispatcher – other than by getting a a paycheck?

    2. You seem to be under the impression the taxpayer is obligated to improve your career outlook.

      It isn’t.

      Want to keep yourself relevant? Invest in yourself.

      If not, we’ll find someone on the open market who has the skills needed to do your job properly.

      Welcome to the real world.

  3. All that bullshit for cop dispatchers? This is some kind of joke, right?

    That motivational speaker could only impress AN IDIOT.

  4. I could only watch the first few seconds of that drivel. When he started talking about “self care”….. The taxpayers of Fullerton should be furious.

  5. There are fiscally conservative employees working for the City. Your frustration is not lost on us.

    Certain employees are oblivious to the double standards they put in place. One day they preach improving morale. Another day they undermine it through actions and decisions completely within their discretion. Travel on city business tends to demoralize staff for the same reasons outlined here. A select few get to travel for frivolous and unproductive purposes (e.g. Nicole’s infamous trip to Vegas) while most of us are denied essentials to do our jobs.

    One time the project I was assigned to required computer skills beyond my skill level. The necessary training was available by webinar (online videos) for about $250. I carefully researched what skills the webinar taught and was confident it would be money well spent. My boss said no. The prior CM said no. They hired a consulting firm to do the same work I could have done after telling me the COF budget couldn’t afford the $250 webinar. Total consulting costs to date are upwards of $20,000.

    Government is unique because nobody excels at flushing money and morale down the drain with a single flush.

    1. City Hall Insider: well that was refreshing! Appreciate you doing your part. And also nice to know there is a city employee willing to speak some truth on this blog about what goes on at City Hall. Most of the employees who comment here just defend, defend, defend. Don’t get discouraged while doing what’s right.

  6. Well it looks like the Grand Inn Hotel ” Cleaned up its act” If you look at the yelp reviews
    starting from “Newest first reviews” , you will see the reviews are all 5 stars.
    But what about Renick Cadillac ? if you look at the reviews starting from ” Newest first you
    will see a pattern of all 1 or 2 star ratings from customers. If Renick Cadillac were an Uber driver, they would have been fired by now!

    1. Disclaimer: If you Stay the Grand Inn for your vacation and decide patronize Renick Cadillac next door, be warned …… you may be subject to
      unethical treatment not excluding racial profiling, wasting of your time, damage to your vehicle (dents, grease left on your seats).

    2. The Yelp reviews were left by the race-baiting union goons who were upset about losing out on the construction deal. The bragged about the phony Yelp campaign on Facebook. Scum.

  7. I dunno, if you go to Adam Timm’s website, he seems like a real bargain:

    “Inspired to share the opportunity for transformation with others, Adam created a meditation-based stress reduction program at the 911 dispatch center, teaching the same tools and techniques that changed his life. This program contributed to a 64% decrease in call center absenteeism, saving the city of Los Angeles over a $100,000 in sick time and healthcare benefits yearly. Seeing the power of this work, Adam founded ZenLife Services in 2011.”

    What a sound investment, he might just pull Fullerton out of its financial peril!

    Okay, for real — that video was one of the biggest loads of gibberish I’ve seen in a long time!

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