Former San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca. File photo.
By BILL PETERSON
The latest evaluation of fired San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca indicates that the city council was committed to evaluating him again in mid-December to see if he met conditions set forth for continued employment.
Instead, the city council fired Menchaca last Thursday by a 4-3 vote after several long rounds of executive session during the last few months.
On the evening of his termination, Menchaca refused to sign an agreement with the city for six months of severance pay and said he would explore his legal options.
A section entitled “Conditions for Continued Employment” attached to the June 1 evaluation called for a 90-day informal evaluation of Menchaca, then a “360 evaluation” in mid-December. The conditions also stated that all hires at the city management level would have to be discussed and approved by the city council, and monthly financial reports from the city’s financial director were to be given directly to the city council.
The document also directed Menchaca to enroll in conflict resolution and sensitivity training courses, and to improve treatment of staff for “reduction of perceived hostile work environment elements and increased workplace satisfaction,” among other conditions.
Menchaca’s performance evaluations were made available in response to a freedom of information request.
The June 1 evaluation purported to be a “360-degree evaluation,” which, according to the evaluation report, “is an approach for assessing position performance utilizing robust and diverse input.” Among the 33 individuals participating in the evaluation were city councilmembers, representatives from city management and ten “external evaluators” who “were generally not affiliated with the City of San Marcos.”
The 360 evaluation was conducted by Round Top Consulting Associates, with Richard Lewis as president and Joanne Ford-Robertson as senior consultant.
Although the city council stipulated conditions for Menchaca’s continued employment, the evaluation indicates that Menchaca met expectations, though by narrow margins, in all management performance categories and in all but one personal performance category.
The evaluation also found discontent with Menchaca among city employees, and that Menchaca apparently was not aware of the situation.
In six areas of management performance, on a scale of one to five, Menchaca’s evaluators gave him an average score of 3.26. Menchaca gave himself an average score of 4.33 in those areas.
A score of one is “fails to meet all expectations,” a five is “exceeds all expectations” and a three is “meets expectations.” A two is “fails to meet reasonable expectations,” while a four is “exceeds reasonable expectations.”
The average scores for Menchaca in the management performance categories came out as follows:
* Fosters effective working relationships with the city council as a whole — 3.13 average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
* Fosters effective working relationships with all San Marcos — 3.09 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
* Budgets and manages the City of San Marcos municipal government — 3.26 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
* Effectively manages the City of San Marcos municipal government operations — 3.12 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 5.0.
* Develops city management personnel resulting in a more professional organization — 3.43 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 5.0.
* Successfully addresses the five city goals — 3.55 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
The 360-degree evaluation also graded Menchaca on five “personal performance” factors. The evaluator average score in those areas came to 3.164, again, slightly above “meets expectations.” Menchaca gave himself an average of 4.2. Those scores came out as follows:
* Successfully managed change within the organization — 3.04 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
* Improved his own personal presentation skills to city council members and the citizens of San Marcos — 3.09 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
* Enhanced communication skills with city council members — 3.40 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
* Actively mentored direct support staff members (especially assistant city managers) — 2.74 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 4.0.
* Completed a teambuilding process for city manager and city management staff operations and professional relationships — 3.55 evaluator average score. Menchaca gave himself a 5.0.
The document said evaluators offered “some very positive comments” concerning Menchaca’s performance, generally indicating that he addressed many areas for improvement from previous evaluations, followed up in a timely fashion to city council queries and displayed “creativity and high energy” relative to the city’s issues and goals.
“Mr. Menchaca showed competence and adept management skills with respect to long-range planning,” the evaluation said. “He demonstrated broad knowledge of city management and improved his skills dealing with citizens. Over the past year, his efforts have resulted in the organization exhibiting a more professional demeanor.”
However, the evaluation also said “there continues to be a feeling of uneasiness with (Menchaca) and his communication style.” Some evaluators outside the city government indicated that there are “negative” relationships between city staff members and that the city staff too often changes its mind, making it difficult to determine where the city stands on important issues.
“It appears Mr. Menchaca has created a professional veneer which shields some problems regarding municipal government operations,” the evaluation said. “It appears he does not support city staff members enough and needs to empower his senior staff relative to decision making. Due to this lack of support, employee morale seems to be low.”
The evaluation asked Menchaca to name areas in which he could improve. According to the evaluation, Menchaca named various aspects of communication and delivery with respect to the city council and the public, but did not mention that he could improve his relations with city staff.
Among his strengths, Menchaca named strategic planning and implementation, organizational development of people, involvement of city employees in developing policies and developing a more professional organization with personal accountability.
A set of city council recommendations attached to Menchaca’s 2010 evaluation said “The City Manager’s inter-personal and leadership skills are a concern,” adding that “(t)reatment of staff members seems to be uneven and has resulted in an increased level of tension (both perceived and real) over the past year,” and “survey results and consultant observations suggest the the organization may be exhibiting some early indicators of a hostile work environment.”
All evaluators were asked to rate Menchaca overall on a scale of one to ten, with ten being “outstanding” and one being “poor.” The average score was 5.84. The high score was nine and the low score was two.
The June 2010 evaluation, combined with Menchaca’s previous evaluations, indicate that his grades progressively declined.
In December 2008, six months after Menchaca took office, city council members were asked to grade him on a scale of one to five in the following areas: relations with the council, relations with citizens, fiscal management, organizational management, personnel management, personal development and professional performance. The council members gave Menchaca a total average score of 3.8, including a 3.9 for personnel management. Menchaca gave himself an average score of 4.6.
Menchaca’s June 1, 2009, evaluation also was conducted by Round Top Consulting, but the evaluators were limited to city councilmembers. On the same scale of one to five across 14 categories, councilmembers gave Menchaca a composite rating of 3.66. Menchaca gave himself a composite rating of 4.36.
In that evaluation, though, Menchaca rated himself with only a 3.0 for “creates and maintains professional relationships with staff members,” while the city council gave him an average rating of 3.33. However, the council gave Menchaca his lowest rating, at 3.14, for “develops subordinates and encourages professional development among staff members.”
For the 2009 evaluation, councilmembers were asked to rate Menchaca on a scale of one to ten. The council average came to 7.1. Asked at that point what should happen as a result of the evaluation, according to the document, three councilmembers said Menchaca should be retained, while four said he should be retained and that there were areas in which he needed improvement. The areas so named were improvement of inter-personal skills with city staff and citizens, along with improvement of presentation skills before the city council.
“Some of the Council perceives that the City Manager’s management style may affect how the staff responds to issues,” said the 2009 evaluation. “The ‘fear factor’ was mentioned on a number of occasions by councilmembers and this fear factor of the staff of the City Manager may impede progress on goals. Lack of effective communication from the City Manager to his staff is seen by some Council members as setting up the staff to fail because they do not know exactly what the City Manager is asking for or the vision for the City. Another area that was cited for the City Manager to work on was the development of his Assistant City Managers.”
However, on that same 2009 evaluation, five of six councilmembers responding graded Menchaca at 3.0 or higher in creating and maintaining professional relationships with staff members (3.33 average), while all seven council members graded Menchaca at 3.0 or higher in these areas: personnel management skills with an emphasis on recruiting and retaining competent staff members (3.86 average), personnel development skills resulting in a more professional organization (3.57 average), and developing subordinates and encouraging professional development among staff members (3.14 average).Email | Print