Grubb told council that after he received several complaints that Kristen Wenrich, the city’s health director, was spending too much time on CI and far too little on public health programs, he took those complaints to the Pennsylvania Department of Health in March.
He later received a copy of an email sent by the health director to all city administrators, outlining a new strategy for introduction to CI for employees who, as Grubb put it, “have not had an opportunity to drink the kool-aid.”
“When I read it, I thought ‘oh my God, this just shows how involved she is’,” said Grubb.
In April he included that email with a second letter he sent to the state health department “to reiterate everyone’s concerns and demonstrate the breadth” of the health director’s involvement in the CI program.
He said the state health department apparently initiated an investigation by contacting the health director and providing her with copies of Grubb’s communications.
“The health director must have immediately gone to the CI administrator who, on his own and without any knowledge or approval by the mayor, began investigating to discover who could have forwarded the health director’s e-mail to me,” said Grubb.
He said the city administrator who had forwarded the health director’s email to him was discovered and confronted.
“To the mayor’s credit, he has since implemented an administrative policy that requires his approval before this kind of unauthorized email investigation can happen again,” Grubb told City Council.
Brong addresses need for CI
After Grubb raised the issue, Brong did talk to City Council about the CI program and shared two examples of how CI has benefited Bethlehem.
But he did not respond to Grubb’s complaints about how the program is being run or the emails transmitted between himself and others involved in the program.
Brong told council about 285 of the city’s 620 employees have been through the CI training process, which apparently teaches them how to increase city revenues while decreasing its expenses.
Brong indicated CI instills a sense of urgency.
“Without it, what do we have?” asked Brong. “What is there? Some vague sense of service? Is that going to fix our problems? It’s not going to fix our problems.”
Brong said he worked in industry before going to work in government “and I will tell you that Continuous Improvement is mainstream. It’s not a fleeting notion in industry. It is the way that industry does business.”
Brong indicated the city’s government has been slow to implement CI practices “due to a lack of urgency, complacency and perhaps an overabundant focus on policy and not execution. It’s all in the execution. And that’s what we’ve been missing.
“The other thing we’ve been missing is the profit motivation. The need for survival. The urgency in this environment isn’t there. It’s been a little bit slow to get off the dime.”
“Brong was right in one respect,” said Grubb after the meeting. “There’s been a lot of resistance. And the resistance is because of the treatment that city employees get.”
CI started years ago
Grubb, a Bethlehem resident, said he worked in the city’s community and economic development department for 27 years. He was the deputy director of community development and also did a stint as the acting director of that department in 1999.
“I was shocked when I read those emails,” said Grubb after the meeting. “It’s despicable. This does not belong in city government.”
Brong was Bethlehem’s director of sewer and water when the CI program started.
“He’s the one who introduced it to city government,” said Grubb. “He brought it in under (Mayor) John Callahan. He’s been essentially calling the shots with CI ever since it was brought in.”
“This has been going on for years,” said Grubb, but he added city employees really went ballistic when Donchez made Brong the city’s business administrator.
After the meeting adjourned, Donchez confirmed Bethlehem’s CI program was started eight or 10 years ago by Mayor Callahan, his predecessor.