The Compartmentalization Effect. Or Worse.

It’s a total waste of money, but it sure is short…

Now that the Council majority of Dunlap, Whitaker and Jung have done a 180 flip-flop and accepted the so-called Trail to Nowhere grant, it seems like a good idea to remind Fullerton about some things that the City still doesn’t want us to know.

Well, well, well…

About eight weeks ago – several weeks before the Council flip-flop – I wrote a post about the presence of test wells on the Trail to Nowhere. These wells were installed to test the levels of trichlorethylene (TCE). Not only were the wells situated on the trail but also farther south, in the middle of the street in the 300 block of West Truslow Avenue.

I offered the fact that no one can do this sort of thing on public property without permits from the City of Fullerton and that surely the Engineering Department or Development Services Departments has records of those encroachments. The scope of the actual TCE contamination has been known for 20 years or more, and the State of California and the Environmental Protection Agency have known all about it. So has City Hall, since groundwater contamination in north Orange County was the subject of a massive lawsuit involving the Orange County Water District. Plus, someone was installing test wells on City property.

I asked how was this contamination could be omitted from the City’s grant application to the State Natural Resources Agency.

The grant has finally been accepted by the City, but the problem remains. Two problems, in fact. The contamination is still there, of course, and so are the test wells – an issue not addressed in the project budget. But an even bigger question remains. Was the omission due to a management problem – complete compartmentalization of City departments? Or, worse was the problem deliberately ignored?

In either case Fullerton has a fundamental problem the cause of which is clear: complete lack of accountability that appears cultural. City Manager Eric Levitt was preceded by a long leadership vacuum in which City Managers like Joe Felz and Ken Domer were simply along for the ride – chosen, apparently for their elastic sense of responsibility. Yet, Levitt has been around for two years and seems to show the same flexible attitude.

If departments are sequestered behind opaque compartment walls, there is a failure of corporate leadership, and an inevitable decentralization that was, and is, a recipe for costly failure. That’s on Mr. Levitt. If City employees knew about the contamination issue and either said nothing or deliberately lied to the State, that’s a problem of employees who feel utterly secure in their behavior, knowing that consequences for bad actions is not a problem; this is on Levitt, too.

In the specific case of the Trail to Nowhere, the three councilmembers who flipped their votes have some explaining to do, and not just about a matter of opinion, good idea/bad idea. They need to explain how and why the City application for the grant omitted mention of a real and present issue, and also what their City Manager (who just got an 8% raise) is going to do about it. If they don’t they’re part of the accountability problem.

17 Replies to “The Compartmentalization Effect. Or Worse.”

  1. It’s an election year for Jung and Dunlap. I think they need to ask themselves if they’re happy in their jobs.

    1. Jung looks miserable. Dunlap seems overwhelmed. Both represent the general malaise of Fullerton. From the town’s fake newspaper to this venomous blog, Fullerton doesn’t deserve nice things.

      1. I was told Dunlap didn’t want to be mayor but they had to keep Zahra out and Whitaker is on entropy alert.

        P.S. This blog is the nicest thing about Fullerton – dissent, not capitulation.

  2. Good post. Is it incompetence or is it malfeasance. And more importantly, do our electeds even care, or are they so averse to looking bad that they do nothing – as always.

  3. So now you care about process and norms. When the decision went your way, there was nothing to discuss. Just praise for a decision that made no sense given long term planning and public sentiment.

    It’s of course reasonable to ask the questions about potential toxin mitigation. What is known, what is not known, what is required, where do the funds come from if there are issues. There was already a judgement some time back for cleanup of up park.

    1. You don’t care about poor Mexicans sucking up toxins on the trail to nowhere. You don’t care about environmental justice. Maybe you aren’t boohoo even though you believe city government doesn’t have to be accountable to anybody.

      But Sieg Heil! You vant your Master Plan.

      1. I must be even more correct than usual if your go-to response is to call me a nazi, lol.

        Godwin’s Law. You lose.

  4. In Fullerton, if you’re not wasting taxpayer money, making mistakes, or doing nothing you’re not doing your job. That is the creed by which city staff and council members live.

  5. Compartmentalization is a big threat to any organization, but it is most prevalent in groups that lack leadership at the top. So department heads like to rule over their little fiefdom and damn everybody else. Walls go up around the jealously guarded cell.

    The lack of accountability is a concomitant symptom. Ignorance, willful or otherwise, of what is going on in the other cells is desired. This goes all the way to the top.

    Inevitably it creates billable hours for Jones and Meyer who get paid to do bad cleanup.

    Fullerton is suffering from a real mismanagement of management. The result? Everybody gets raises and pension spikes.

  6. The “leaders” are just average people who don’t know anything about everything. So we get sports hero days from Dunlap and Whitaker, trails on contaminated soil from all of them. Zahra is the only one with talent; a talent for relentless self-promotion. Sheena Charles is a fucking imbecile.

    It’s a damn disgrace, but hey, Fullerton is the Education Communidad.

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