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July 1st, 2010
Menchaca evaluations point to 'fear factor' among city staffers


Former San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca. File photo.

Executive Editor

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).

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0 thoughts on “Menchaca evaluations point to 'fear factor' among city staffers

  1. Who in the world are the Round Top Consultants? Do we use them often? What do they cost? Why is it so hard to DO an evaluation and then read it to find consensus, without help from afar? Seems like we should just pay our focus groups and consultants and go on with business as usual, cheaper and without all the impediments of silent elected spokespersons.

  2. Round Top Consulting Associates (based out of San Antonio) has been used by COSM for a variety of projects. I remember they conducted some of the annual “collect input from citizens on what we want to be and how that should translate into the annual budget” initiatives (when those were taking place). But, we normal citizens never got to see the full reports posted online.

    From Round Top’s website, and how they’ve described their services in past meeting introductions, they conduct plenty of 360 degree performance evaluations. There are a lot of consultants delivering 360 evaluation services, so the cost should be pretty affordable (but, with our track record, I bet we paid top dollar). I believe 360’s are best done by an outside service, because that can ensure confidentiality and reassure respondents that it is OK to speak the truth.

    From a personal perspective, I initiated my first 360 back in 1992 and found it very helpful. I realized there were areas I was doing better than I thought, and it highlighted a few opportunity areas where I could concentrate and soar to new heights in leadership and team performance. (Side note, my self-ratings were almost always lower than the group ratings, on individual performance parameters.)

    From that point forward, I promoted the use of 360’s whenever possible and as appropriate. But, for the COSM review of the City Manager, I am surprised they felt they had to involve 33 different individuals in the evaluation. That is a huge number of people for just one person’s 360. That seems really strange, and I’m not sure what to think about that.

    Regarding the evaluation details described here in this article, it is all so disappointing and such a shame for everybody involved. The term “hostile work environment” is pretty heavy-duty in HR circles. Requiring “monthly financial reports from the city’s financial director to be given directly to the city council” raises eyebrows, too. Requiring the City Manager to, “enroll in conflict resolution and sensitivity training courses” really portrays fire behind the smoke.

  3. Steve-you are right on point and very well spoken on this one. Unfortunately, there will be even more negative information coming out about Rick’s time with the COSM in the documents folks have obtained under the FOI act. The question is will SM News chose to publish all the docs online because they do not support in any way their continued anti-mayor/slam Susan/pro-Thomaides campaign. It will be an absolute shame if they censor the truth.

    Also very correct on raising eyebrows on the finiancal records.

    With everything now becoming public about the issues the Council (entire Council) had with Rick, I really want to know why John, Pam and Gaylord wanted to keep him. It seems to me they must not care a great deal about the employees who were subject to Rick’s hostility, uneven treatment and outbursts. I’m sure each one of them have their reasons and I will be all ears this fall during their respective campaigns.

    As you said this is sad at many levels. Rick could have gone away very silently in the night without much fanfare. It shocks me, knowing how much his image means to him, that he would make statements like:

    ” Asked why he thought Narvaiz moved to have him fired, Menchaca said he didn’t understand it, adding that it was entirely unwarranted. Menchaca said he has received positive evaulations of his performance throughout his time in San Marcos.”


    “I’m disappointed that she’s acted so unprofessionally in this matter,” Menchaca said of Narvaiz.

    All these statements did was fuel the fire forcing individuals and organizations such as SM News to file FOI forms and get the information (truth) which Rick knew was not good.

    Rick saw the writing on the wall months ago. He could have very easily taken the severence package that night, done a joint release with the Mayor and/or Council saying they are going seperate ways and walked away with his image in tact and none of his dirty laundry aired for the world to see…ie…making himself very unmarketable. But instead he and Kristen turned it into a political issue between he and the Mayor which has now bitten him in the….

    Scott and Bill….do the right thing. Publish ALL the documents you received under the FOI. Don’t summarize them with your slant. Post them. Let people make up their own minds.

    One last thing…it amazes me that when the truth starts to come out, all the posters who lit up the comments on Rick’s stories about conspiracies, backroom deals, queen Susan, etc….are all suddenly very silent.

  4. Well, I’m still bothered by how it was all handled. I just didn’t think it warranted reposting the same concerns over and over again.

  5. Somebody really read this story and saw an anti-Susan political slant? Whither literacy? Whenever people start crying “media bias!” I’m on my guard. They are less trustworthy than anybody. It’s usually a political stooge trying to fool other readers. The stooge wants us to think a story is slanted one way, because her slant goes the other way.

  6. “I really want to know why John, Pam and Gaylord wanted to keep him. ”

    Would that be Pam Porterfield?

  7. My guess is that the three of them were OK with firing him deep-down, but felt the timing would be perceived as politically-motivated (which is exactly what happened). The conditions that were to be placed on him for the next six months (conflict resolution training, direct financial reporting, limitation on hiring/firing of certain staff, etc.) basically telegraphed that they would probably end up firing him in December anyway–those were pretty serious actions. I think they may have also felt that taking action like that would help in any arbitration/lawsuit to demonstrate that Rick had received direct feedback on Council’s concerns.

    And please don’t bring Rick’s wife into the discussion. She doesn’t have anything to do with the situation.

    Round Top is a good consulting group. I’m familiar with Dr. Lewis’ work elsewhere. In the past he has charged what I consider very reasonable rates, and like Steve said, it really is best to have an impartial 3rd party conduct a 360. There are people in the San Marcos HR department that are capable of doing such a study, but they work under the city manager and therefore would have difficulty carrying out a 360 on the city manager.

  8. [quote]And please don’t bring Rick’s wife into the discussion. She doesn’t have anything to do with the situation.


    She sent a scathing e-mail to the SM Daily Record, re: Mayor Narvaiz.

  9. Seems to me a major unanswered question is (and not being asked by media yet): why did the Council want “monthly financial reports directly from the finance director” ? Did the Council suspect the city manager wasn’t being honest with them or hiding something or incompetent of ???? Please have your reporters ask Council members about this since it’s the taxpayers money it should be open records, right?

  10. “Well, I’m still bothered by how it was all handled. I just didn’t think it warranted reposting the same concerns over and over again.”


  11. Uhhh….

    On second thought….

    An e-mail to the Daily Record, which indicated it was sent from Kristin Menchaca, wife of the ousted city manager, stated, “Everything was going well up until C. M. Allen was striped, upsetting the mayor that her arch-rival ([San Marcos City Council member John] Thomaides) got credit on something and she didn’t. Her personal slogan: ‘If you are not with me, you are against me,’ prevails in yet another political ‘witch-hunt’ choreographed by an elected official on her way out of office…. Four weeks later, we are at a loss of a good man highly respected in this community, and who has done so much for our fine city. What a shame.”

  12. Menchaca did away with 360 evaluations when he was Midland’s City Manager and Mayor Canon and the City Council allowed him to do it. Rick didn’t think city employees were smart enough to recognize a hostile work environment. I congratulate the City of San Marcos Mayor and City Council for standing up by not allowing Menchaca to demean city employees. Some people have character flaws that don’t allow them to be critical of themselves. Menchaca’s authoritative, demeaning, and vindictive leadership style have cost him again. I would have loved to seen the look in Rick’s eye when he was told he needed to attend leadership training. Priceless…

  13. Yea, I voted it was the incorrect action a bunch of times so that Rick would feel better about himself. I got it moved to the top.

  14. It is now what some call a “fait accompli,” what we ruf tuf Texans should call a “done deal.” We need now to pass on the word that a replay down the road, of either the firing, the harassment from WHOMever, or the patently hand-wired method of the ouster, is not to be tolerated (That is a fancy term I learned that means “throwing out” or “unseating.” We might need to use it more often, if government does not become more responsive to “vox populi”–another fancy word for “voice of the people.”) Real leaders, hired or elected, follow the rhythm and the expressed needs and wishes of the majority–“find out which way they want to go, then run out in from them”–not drag them by the nose toward one’s own better idea.

    Any idiot, even a newcomer one can figure out what promises to make to the suckers–jobs, neighborhood integrity, water conservation, small business growth, better balanced housing market, more tourism and entertainment (largely used as distractions). It takes either dictatorship, feudalism, or outright prostitution to “interests” for any one person to fill those promises. That’s why I’ve never made any or believed any. The only promise that can be easily kept in the whirlwind of politics is to show up, work hard, know the issues, and have personal integrity and faith to the Oath of Office.

  15. Who has volunteered to hold the money for bets? It’s a reflex, Steve, and it has worked often enough. Even the “retreads” catch on soon enough. Sigh….

  16. Actually, I’ve already gotten a glimpse of some of the mud to be slung. Campaign season really does cast a particularly flattering light on the human race.

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