Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dickson Gets Break & Wilde's Old Job

San Angelo's Water Chief has been promoted to Executive Director of Public Works, which is the position Will Wilde once occupied.  One difference is Wilde was a professional engineer, once a requirement of the top Public Works job and the Water Utilities Chief position.  City Manager Daniel Valenzuela waived that requirement for Dickson to become San Angelo's Water Czar.  It appears he brought back the Public Works Director job sans the engineering qualification.

This appointment comes after Assistant Water Utilities Director and engineer Kevin Krueger left the city for unnamed greener pastures.  News reports stated:

Krueger’s last day is Sept. 12, Dickson said, and city management is discussing how to fill Krueger’s position. 

“We haven’t gotten that far yet,” Dickson said.

City management is devising a game plan, Marley said, and likely will send out a news release once they have one. 

“His position will be tough to fill,” she said.

Valenzuela's promotion of Dickson includes the combination of the City's two engineering divisions at a time when the city has a significant dearth of professional engineers.  I don't know many engineers who want to work for someone who is not their professional peer.

Valenzuela is looking to "mine other efficiencies," however the addition of a Public Works super-manager looks like the creation of a new high paying job, as Dickson's old job must be filled and Shane Kelton remains over streets, trash and our landfill.

The city has contracted engineering consultants at a premium price due to the lack of engineering talent/capacity.  Numerous projects are late and material costs have risen significantly. These are major inefficiencies caused by the lack of professional engineers.

I heard no dire warnings from Ricky Dickson as San Angelo's streets were left to rot by prior city councils.  The historical underinvestment occurred on his watch.  Yes, City Manager Harold Dominguez kept a tight lid on who said what to council, but a professional would find a way to warn about the long term consequences of an ongoing failure to maintain public infrastructure.

Valenzuela's appointment of Ricky Dickson is another underwhelming move.    Ricky's rise is even more surprising than Will's, given Dickson's lack of professional credential.

Consider what the city specified the following in recruiting Ricky's replacement:

Director of Water Utilities
The successful candidate should be licensed as a Professional Engineer with the Texas Board of Professional Engineers. Five year's work experience as a director in public sector utilities is preferred. San Angelo will offer a market competitive salary, complete with a full range of leave and insurance benefits. The City participates in the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) at a seven percent employee deposit rate with a municipal matching ratio of 2:1 and a five year vesting period.

Clearly stated, Dickson is not qualified to fill his old position, the one he just vacated.

If Valenzuela wanted to create a new Executive Director of Public Works position, why didn't he post it and conduct a search for the most qualified candidate?  This is the second job Ricky got under Daniel that was not posted for internal candidates, much less made available to qualified outside parties.

Frankly, I wonder what price the community will pay ten years from now from the leadership combination of Valenzuela-Dickson.  I expect it to be significant.

Update 10-31-14:  Valenzuela waived the PE requirement yet again.  San Angelo's new Director of Water Utilities is not a professional engineer, according to Anthony Wilson, Public Information Officer.

Update 1-19-17:   Dickson became aware in 2011 that Republic Services was charging fees outside those allowed by city ordinance.  Rather than investigate the case for wider fraud Dickson had Republic stop billing one account for unauthorized fees.  Documents indicate Dickson was aware of Republic's fraudulent billing and helped sweep it under the rug.

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