Parks & Rec issues

Memo from Greensboro Parks & Recreation Director Bonnie Kuester to the Parks & Rec Commission

“I wanted to let you know that the issues referred to in the media in the past 24 hours are in reference to a personnel matter.  As you know personnel matters can not be shared.  Thank you for your continued support.” (link added)

Update: N&R has more, but not much more.

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  1. Posted February 15, 2008 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Cannot be share with whom? The Parks & Rec commission?

  2. Posted February 15, 2008 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    That is the inferrence. I’m not breaking any trusts by saying the only thing I know about it: it is a matter involving the EEOC.

  3. Posted February 15, 2008 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    The announcement from Parks and Rec that is not an announcement about issues which we can not discuss will certainly not affect trash pick up in your area.
    The announcement concerning the Greensboro Fire Department which is not an announcement about issues we can not discuss hopefully will not affect any animal control or waste water services that you now enjoy.
    Please resume your normal life and do not ask any more questions lest ye be beheaded.

    Hogg, is that pig with an apple in it’s mouth holding it’s breath because he’s heard of your BBQ reputation?…he’s turned purple.

  4. Posted February 16, 2008 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    I think you nailed it Tony.

    Allowing EEOC-based matters to run their course without an undue, and, I believe, unlawful, airing of specifics is how things are supposed to work. The orderly resolution of such matters will not, and should not, affect the day-to-day activities and obligations of any organization.

    Did I get your gist?

    Re: The Pig. It does indeed appear to be an apple. As to the purple color, he is holding his breath to see if Greensboro is ever going to resolve anything.

  5. Posted February 16, 2008 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    You gisted.
    Have a good weekend David.

  6. Gatecity Keeper
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    And to think I thought the Pig was holding its breath until there are 5 votes to start cleaning up GSO.

  7. Margaret Banks
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    My understanding: The city of Greensboro is barred from discussing this situation, and could face legal action if it reveals any specifics.

    HOWEVER, there’s no rule that bans the person who filed the claim from sharing information with the N&R. In fact, that was how we learned about the rulings in the EEOC/police cases.

    If I could talk to the person who made the complaint, I would make the case that it’s in the public’s best interest to know as much about the allegation as possible.

  8. Posted February 17, 2008 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    While I certainly agree that, “…it’s in the public’s best interest to know as much about the allegation as possible”, I have no idea who it was that made the complaint.

    Yes!Weekly’s Jordan Green is working on this, too. He called yesterday and asked, “…as P&R Commission chair, were you as blindsided by this as everyone else?”

    “No”, was my answer. I learned about the complaint over a month ago from a concerned P&R employee. I called Director Kuester about it and she confirmed it, but that was all that was said. I never asked her who it involved or what kind of complaint was being made. I’m sure she wouldn’t have answered if I had asked for the very reason you mention above.

    Sorry I can’t be more helpful, Margaret.

  9. Posted February 17, 2008 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Folks complain about something being “tried in the media” before it has the opportunity to run through the appropriate channels, whether that’s through a trial, or by other means. Is it that we want to know information because it’s best for the community? Or is it the titillation factor?

    I’m still puzzled about how some bloggers came up with information that was supposedly protected because of on-going investigations. Is it that an employee of the City is passing on information in violation of legal, ethical, or policy standards?

  10. Noah
    Posted April 12, 2008 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    You once agreed with Margaret Banks that, “…it’s in the public’s best interest to know as much about the (P&R EEOC) allegation as possible”. I doubt that the City has shared much with you regarding this matter. As Chair of the Parks & Recreation Commission and one who shares an interest with the public as to the condition of this important city department you should know more. If, at the conclusion of the EEOC investigation lawsuits are filed against the City and P&R department, people might be second guessing their association with P&R, whether it be a business or informal relationship. The types of allegations being made are that serious. The following link describes a case that just settled involving 11 employees of the NYC Parks & Recreation Department:
    There appear to be many similarities between that case and what has occurred in the department you advise.

    The P&R Commission probably doesn’t get involved in personnel issues. However, when these types of allegations occur the potential impact cannot be ignored because the department’s ability to serve the citizens can be negatively affected.

    It’s shameful that the P&R Commission has the power to make decisions for the department but are not worthy of knowing about the internal issues that could affect your decision-making.



  11. Joan
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Why did P&R leadership just cut the departmental fundraiser position? The person in the position brought in well over a million dollars in the last couple of years and started a foundation for the parks!
    With the city budget crunch how can the department afford to lose that kind of income? Great job…..

  12. William K
    Posted April 20, 2008 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    In the Fall of 2007, eight Parks & Recreation employees filed discrimination charges through the EEOC against the City of Greensboro. The employees recently met with the News & Record to clarify some things that had been printed in another publication that were inaccurate. They notified the City Manager that they would be doing so and informed him that they felt more progress should have been made in resolving the Parks & Recreation issues.

    The educational qualifications of the employees involved in the complaints consist of a dozen college degrees, licensure in various fields, and multiple professional awards.

    The employees represent nearly every division of the department and have a combined experience with the city alone of over one-hundred fifty years.

    The charges allege long-term race and gender discrimination, hostile work environment, preferential treatment of employees that were being groomed for promotion, falsifying documents to grant promotions, retaliation, and more.

    The charges state that under the current director’s leadership dozens of management and upper level administrative positions have been appointed without posting the positions, soliciting applications, or conducting interviews.

    The charges state that zero upper level management positions have been filled through fair and open competition for the jobs. All have been appointed without establishing qualifications and without conducting interviews.

    The charges state that lesser qualified candidates have been placed in some of the highest positions.

    The charges state that under the current director’s leadership no African American females have been allowed to apply for upper level management positions, despite the fact that many in the department have excellent credentials.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is currently investigating the charges.

  13. Noah
    Posted April 26, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I think I’ve heard this story before. A director and management team cracking the whip so no one will challenge them. What did they expect? You take a handful of well educated employees and basically tell them, “NO, you won’t ever get a promotion while you are here and you will like it.” Some of these employees have probably invested $50-100 thousand dollars into thier education. Does the City think they won’t protect that investment?
    Aren’t we taught that a college education is worth something? What kind of message is the City sending if credentials and qualifications mean nothing? Don’t directors report to someone? Doesn’t HR or the City Manager look in on the Parks Department or does it run unchecked?
    Watch, this will be messy and ugly.

  14. Gerald Wembley
    Posted May 7, 2008 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Noah made a comment about the impact of negative publicity on the P&R department’s ability to adequately serve the citizens. How profound was that with the P&R bond being voted down yesterday. Remember, P&R bonds usually pass with high citizen approval. This one combined city and county parks projects.
    Let’s have a look….
    Did the discrimination charges against the City of Greensboro/P&R manangement contribute to the citizens killing the bond?
    The referendum was defeated by 5000-6000 votes. How were those votes lost?

    1. The News & Record opinion prior to the voting was that the P&R bond should be voted down even though it was a small fraction of the overall referendum.
    The News and Record was well aware of the discrimination charges occurring in the department and had written about it. Is that the real reason for the snub?
    Result: Loss of “YES” votes.

    2. The rumor mill says many City employees voted against the bond to express a loss of confidence in the P&R leadership.
    If each of those employees families and friends voted with them you could potentially be looking at thousands of votes. Isn’t the CIA thought to have influenced elections in foreign countries? If that happened here it could be considered a covert coup d’état. If its true, the city manager will learn that regular employees can strongly influence the overall health of the organization and its ability to serve the citizens. Sounds hokey but the school board was talking about voting down the school bonds to call attention to what they percieved as racial issues in the school system. Whew.
    Result: Loss of “YES” votes.

    3. Blogs & other press alternatives
    Greensboro has good bloggers and altenative press. Some citizens form opinions around what is presented by them. The P&R story has been circulated to some extent in these arenas.
    Result: Loss of “YES” votes.

    What does it all mean?
    Politicians understand the value of press. City Council and County Commissioners will contemplate what the P&R bond failure means. I bet the City never considered that in a close vote its own disgruntled employees could be the ones that lost it for them and the citizens. It was a bit sad to see the county park planner telling FOX news he needed grant funding now that the bond failed. Interesting that City P&R just cut their own grant funding position. That doesn’t look like an intelligent move now that the bond failed. Maybe they should have kept that position and shared it with the county!


  15. Posted May 11, 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink


    One thing I agree with is that it might not have been the smartest move to let our grant writer go. In these economic times it may well be outside grants that make the difference between having certain programs and not having them.

    I’ve not yet had the opportunity to ask staff about their thinking on this. I’ll let you know of their response.

  16. Gerald
    Posted May 19, 2008 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    So what was the response? Mumbo jumbo and talking in circles I bet. Based on the comments written above do you think you will get a satisfactory response? What does this say about future bonds and future grants?

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  1. [...] Moreover, the N&R’s host of employee bloggers used to engage in conversation outside of their own blogs, but for the past six months or so, I can’t remember much of that going on.  While regular linking to N&R content and commentary exists among non-N&R bloggers, reciprocation is almost non-existent. [...]