The Bethlehem administration’s continuous improvement program for city employees is like something out of Nazi Germany, a former city administrator told City Council Tuesday night.
Dana Grubb said he has listened to hundreds of comments and complaints about the program, which he simply called CI, from more than 100 current and former city employees since it was implemented years ago.
He said their concerns have centered on individuals running the program, whom they repeatedly have described as vicious tyrants who use Gestapo tactics and police interrogation methods "to indoctrinate and force co-workers into abiding by their directives about how city government should be run."
"To be honest with you, I thought this was the stuff of Nazi Germany, not the United States of America," Grubb told council.
He said he recently read dozens of emails between the city’s CI administrator "and his minions," including a department business manager and an individual who is now the city’s acting HR director – Michelle Cichocki.
He said those three individuals used many pejorative nicknames to describe other city employees, including gnome, Muppet, little bastard, limpy, boy mayor and worse.
He said the CI administrator used an unprintable expletive about counselors in the city’s employee assistance program.
“I’ve never seen emails like this in city government,” said Grubb, who worked for Bethlehem for 27 years.
"In one, it was suggested that the CI administrator communicate with a female employee by 'talking dirty to her.' There are also references made to how a female employee dresses. This is disgusting."
Grubb said the "unprofessional, nasty and demeaning" emails by a small group of CI "missionaries" were an obvious abuse of the city's email system.
"It's equally disturbing that these are the kinds of public servants city government employs," he said.
"It's certainly little wonder that city employee morale is very low, given the disdain and disrespect with which they are treated. Perhaps CI should stand for ‘continual intimidation’."
Grubb didn’t name names when he spoke to council, but later explained his comments were about David Brong, the city’s business administrator.
Brong oversees the entire CI program, said Grubb.
Brong was sitting next to Mayor Robert Donchez in Town Hall when Grubb addressed council.
Without acknowledging that he is in charge of the CI program, Brong told council:
“The process has made people uncomfortable. It really has. But frankly, I don’t really care about that. Because when I look at the projections for the financial savings, I get uncomfortable.
“We can either be uncomfortable based on the accountabilities we are placing on people or we can get uncomfortable based on the financial realities we have to deal with. You can take your pick.”
In response to a question from City Council president J. William Reynolds after Grubb spoke, Brong said the city’s CI program is continuing “without question.”
After the meeting adjourned, the mayor said he is evaluating the CI program this year.
“I’ll decide at the end of the year whether we’ll continue it,” said Donchez.
Asked if he had any response about the content of the emails mentioned by Grubb, the mayor said: “That’s personnel. I don’t discuss that.”
The city council president twice invited the mayor to speak about the CI program after Grubb raised the issue, but Donchez declined to do so during the meeting.
Grubb later stressed the mayor “is not a party to what’s going on there. Bob Donchez is too honorable a guy.”
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