cheesekate
So, today's Gazette has a story titled: "Eight people left planning and engineering in 2015". Sounds high to me...but then it goes on to say that the "turnover rate for last year was 15%". !!!!! Just how big is that department when 8 people leave, and it's only 15%??? Are they saying the department has roughly 80 people? I would have appreciated some better reporting...with Victoria Paterson actually getting the city to say how many people are in the department, instead of her just letting the city (and Prefontaine) basically tell the story.
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Swallow1
80 people, and they STILL couldn't get our Compliance Certificate correct?  THAT'S SICK!
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HWM



     
It is odd what descriptors were used. It seems that a jump from an average of 5.5 to 8 , about 50%, is not a big deal.
 
"Prefontaine said in an interview in January that while the turnover numbers in 2015 were only somewhat up from previous years",
 
  It does say: "According to the 2016 draft budget, the department employees the equivalent of 53.25 staff."
 
   The story is, I agree, poorly done. I would like to know exactly how many have left since Prefontaine took over for example and whether the two who have left already this year is unusual...
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Head Honcho
I sure hope all these questions are not going to sit here unanswered. Please folks, send those comments to the editor of the Gazette and let us know what their response is to such pointed questions.
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theskeptic

Reading the Gazette article “No major exodus in city planning and engineering” reminds me of Mark Twain’s famous quote “There are lies, damned lies and statistics.”  Nothing is more irrelevant than looking at general statistics relating to turnover for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 because they do not delineate how many “key personnel” in “critical positions” have left the department or the reasons for their departure.

Given that Prefontaine was parachuted into this new position and is neither an Engineer nor a Planner, the critical question that needs to be asked is this:  “How many engineers of long standing have left shortly after Prefontaine was appointed? …... and the answer is 6 engineers including Tracy Allen who was the head of the Department and recognized as a specialist on St. Albert’s infrastructure.  The second question is how many key planners have left since Prefontaine was hired … and the answer is 3 including the Director of Planning.

All the rest of the article is pure filler material which is understandable since the City is the Gazette’s largest advertiser and their journalists give every appearance of being rejects from the Red Earth Examiner.

 
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cheesekate
And I would like to know if any of those key planners or engineers of long-standing that theskeptic references also applied for the job Prefontaine now holds.
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warmodel
The skeptic & Cheesecake:  Re your opinions - would you not agree that with the large number of resignations in Engineering and Planning appears to have the main cause being the appointment of Prefontaine which brings the following to the fore. 
City Council is committed to its Oath of Office which states (in particular Article #5 - "NOT USE their positions to obtain employment with the corporation for THEMSELVES, family members or close associates."
If Council and in particular Nolan Crouse as the Mayor, one would have expected him to bring this matter forward and vote against it. 
It would be interesting to learn who applied for the position - would by chance former Director - Engineering, Tracy Allen or former Director Planning, Carol Bergum were among the applications and lastly were there any qualified individuals from outside city hall who applied.
As it appears Prefontaine was awarded the position without any experience whatsoever and in return receives a hefty paycheck at taxpayers expense. And as to quell any negative talk re this posting had his title changed from Engineering & Planning to another title.
All of this can give one the opinion among others that Oath of Offcie does not mean a thing. I wonder if Crouse would ever respond to his inaction re this matter? 

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Observer
Here is yet another example of when the facts do not line up with how people here feel they go on the attack irrationally. I read this story a few times with all of the angry ranting from everyone in mind and was perplexed. I actually wondered if any of you actually read the article.

The number of employees in the department was reported. The seniority of the staff that left was reported. Prefontaine was not the only source. In fact, your champion Cam was quoted extensively saying exactly what you are complaining was not in the article.

The only thing that you got right was it did not say why the staff left. Obviously none of you have any experience with human resources or privacy legislation, or if you do it is another piece of rational thought you toss out the window when you can't deal with the fact the world does not always agree with you. That information would never be released by an employer. Maybe the employee that left would say, but only if that person was stupid and did not like the idea of working again.

Then there is the part where the article outlines the fact that the city tried to hide even this basic information from the gazette and how it went to lengths to get it. Not exactly the actions of an organization trying to protect its favourite advertiser.

Yeah. Prefontaine's hiring was wrong and he should not be in that potion. But your pitchfork and torch mentality every time something does not go your way just undermines your opinions. I appreciated the fact the story was balanced with both sides of the coin. I trust that approach far more than the tabloid style sensationalism and hyperbole that is written here.
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HWM
    I would appreciate you pointing out where i engaged in:

  "the tabloid style sensationalism and hyperbole that is written here."
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Observer
I meant skeptic mostly.
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HWM
Well, Observer, if that is the case, I suggest you should say so, lest you be accused of using the very technique which you criticize, i.e.:
   Here is yet another example of when the facts do not line up with how people here feel they go on the attack irrationally
  angry ranting from everyone...I actually wondered if any of you actually read the article.



. But your pitchfork and torch mentality every time something does not go your way just undermines your opinions.

 I believe you could have made your point without this added*stuff*.
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Head Honcho
While Observer is quite correct in his observation, "Obviously none of you have any experience with human resources or privacy legislation, or if you do it is another piece of rational thought you toss out the window when you can't deal with the fact the world does not always agree with you. That information would never be released by an employer. Maybe the employee that left would say, but only if that person was stupid and did not like the idea of working again", there are ways to take hints from some of the people who left.

At the time that city engineer Tracy Allen left, I seem to recall a member of council offered information that Ms. Allen accepted a position with the city of Edmonton that paid $20,000 less per year than her position in St. Albert. That information was posted somewhere online, but I cannot find it now. Does anyone else recall that tidbit?

If correct, one is left to wonder if that is the action of an employee who is satisfied with her position with the city of St. Albert, or so distressed about it, was willing to take a huge pay cut 'to get out'?
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Murray Lambert
Statistics can be skewed to support almost anything including the likes of turnover and retention rates so I don't normally put any great stock in them. Of course you're not going to be told the reasons for leaving unless it comes from the 'horse's mouth' or someone 'in the know' who is willing to speak up. That being said, the fact that the exodus of persons with bonafide credentials, experience and considerable seniority from the engineering and planning department occurred in such close proximity to the Prefontaine appointment shouts loudly of discontent and rancour. Whether the Gazette article was representative of the facts is one thing but having Prefontaine himself spinning the issue into a 'whitewash' is a case of extreme irony that serves only to add insult to injury for those affected.
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warmodel
Observer:  Further to my earlier 'rant' I would like to enlarge on what I had stated, namely - I would assume that it was Draper who awarded the position of head of Planning and Engineering to Prefontaine.  I would also assume that Draper would have been aware of the St. Albert City Council "Oath of Office" - as well surely Prefontaine would have been aware. This brings into question, why did all three members of the city ignore this Oath? And last when Prefontaine was given a 'new' title for the position he now holds, should this position have been posted and interested parties given the opportunity to apply for it - as well the question that follows, it would now appear that a vacancy would exist for Planning and Engineering, if so is this going to be rebulletined. 
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Head Honcho
This issue can, and likely will be rehashed for years to come, but when neither administration nor council have shown any inclination to enforce the council code of conduct, nor right what many residents see as a wrong, nothing is going to change.

If people desire change, they can express their desire for that change in the civic election next year and elect council members who have the courage to act. Until then I am afraid folks are only wasting electrons by showing their frustration again and again here.
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theskeptic

The “observer’s” defence of the Gazette article relating to the “exodus” from city planning and engineering seems to exhibit more bombast and vitriol than actual reasoned argument.  His  accusations of “angry ranting”, his characterization of the comments being an irrational attack, and his description of the post as  “tabloid style sensationalism and hyperbole” while concurrently inferring that the people who write on mybirdie  have the tendency to toss rational thought out the window, would seems to be seriously undermine his implicit suggestion that he is the epitome of impartial Socratic reason.

Those that follow municipal politics in St. Albert were aware that there were several key people  who chose to leave the engineering and planning department shortly after Prefontaine’s coronation including Tracy Allen and Carol Bergum.  The best information was that there were 5 or 6 engineers and 3 planners who quit the department within a short time after Prefontaine’s appointment.  Therefore the perfectly rational question which one would think a journalist would tackle was this: “given Prefontaine has no expertise in either engineering or planning …. did these key people leave because of dissatisfaction with the appointment of a person they saw as unqualified?”  That central question was mysteriously obfuscated by an all too transparent attempt to rely on meaningless  annual turnover statistics provided to her by Prefontaine.

Without an investigation as to how many people who held critically important positions quit; how quickly they left after Prefontaine’s appointment, and some explanation as to why they left, the bold printed conclusion in the heading of the article about “No major exodus” is an unsubstantiated conclusion.    However, it will be the heading which many people will read and accept without much critical thought.

It is noticeable that the Gazette article was strangely silent on whether any attempt was made to obtain an explanation from these departed employees as to why they left the City’s employ.  If basic investigative journalism had occurred and the former employees refused to comment … then the customary practice is to note that these people were contacted but they “declined to comment.”  Since the Gazette article is silent on whether an attempt was made to contact the former employees .. it is reasonable to assume that no such effort was made.  Since the Gazette cannot assume the former employees would not have provided an explanation (contrary to Observer’s musings) it is hardly an example of gold plated journalism.

So, if the Gazette chooses to accept the meaningless statistics provided to them by Prefontaine as proof that key people did not leave because of his appointment, if the Gazette chooses to not bother attempting to obtain answers from these former employees as to why they left, they can hardly complain if some of us question the validity of their implicit suggestion that all is normal in the engineering and planning department.
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OMG
We do vote and support for those who have the courage to act [ Cam, Sheena, Bob]The problem in St. Albert is that the majority do not know or do not care to know what is going on. Then there are those who choose to attack the 3 councillors for asking questions and doing their job! When information is posted that is factual and based on a reliable source, one is personally attacked and turn it around on you. If people really knew......................

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Observer
Maybe they tried to contact them, maybe not. Since skeptic is working on assumption alone, I will assume whether they did or did not is moot because no one who wants to work again is going to speak out against a former employer.

As for saying leadership is what drove them out, it is there, in black and white. Cam MacKay says it, unequivocally. So to say the article relies solely on stats and Prefontaine is wrong.

I doubt we can ever do more than assume that is why they left. I think it is highly likely, and the article presents enough of both sides for people to come to their own conclusions. From what I can tell you are guilty of not reading much more than the headline.

I can also say that I was under the impression that the turnover in the department was in the double digit range based on comments from some councillors and the public over the past few months. I think many people who follow city council had the same impression. So, to me, that makes the headline fair.
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Observer
I will say perhaps a side by side comparison of the positions that left would have been useful, but Prefontaine admits himself that the reason people have shown concern is that more senior people have left.
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OMG
A Gazette editorial a while back states that it feels privileged to be reporting the news to readers and touted that "a healthy democracy demands that all levels of government face the scrutiny of skilled reporters who do their best to uncover incompetence and back room deals." It is too bad that the Gazette has a difficult task of living up to this quote of theirs as they are biased and investigative reporting is virtually non existent. In St Albert the divisiveness can partly be attributed to the Gazette's biased reporting.

Why would Prefontaine not say that. He is not going to say something like ......Tracy Allen left because she, who is extremely qualified, maybe applied for the job?
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theskeptic

In relation to the question as to whether the reporter interviewed the engineers and planners who left the employ of the city, there are two possibilities namely (a) she did interview them or (b) she did not interview them.  Additionally, they either (a) spoke to her and provided information or (b) they declined to discuss the matter. Whatever, the permutations and combinations of the above, it is an established journalistic practice to inform the reader as to the actual situation.   In this case, this was never done and represents a defect in the quality of the reporting on this topic.

Secondly,  the suggestion that “no one who wants to work again is going to speak out against a former employer” is simply not borne out in the real world.  Lots of people are perfectly frank about their dissatisfaction with their former employee …. and still have employment. Knowing the reason for an applicant’s departure from their former employ, often provides justification in the minds of their new employer as to why they should be hired by the new company.  Therefore to assume that these people would not speak out against their former employer and use that as a justification for not interviewing them would seems to be a questionable practice for a reporter.

Finally, the mere fact that this Reporter considered the general annual turnover rates to somehow address the problem of key personnel leaving, is rather disconcerting.  However, obviously she did so since she attempted to devalue MacKay’s comments by saying “The [MacKay] interview was given prior to the release of the statistics”.  It is understandable that Prefontaine would throw up these statistics as a smokescreen.  The fact that she accepted his statistics as an answer to the central question without an ounce of skepticism does not provide confidence in the journalistic validity of the entire news story.
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Head Honcho
OMG wrote:
A Gazette editorial a while back states that it feels privileged to be reporting the news to readers and touted that "a healthy democracy demands that all levels of government face the scrutiny of skilled reporters who do their best to uncover incompetence and back room deals." It is too bad that the Gazette has a difficult task of living up to this quote of theirs as they are biased and investigative reporting is virtually non existent. In St Albert the divisiveness can partly be attributed to the Gazette's biased reporting. Why would Prefontaine not say that. He is not going to say something like ......Tracy Allen left because she, who is extremely qualified, maybe applied for the job?


These are irresponsible comments that have no basis in fact and one of the reasons I edit posts to avoid possible litigation. This reckless manner of posting baseless accusations from pure emotion makes my job so much more difficult and takes more time to try and control than I am willing to spend anymore. 

I will leave this post here for all to see as an example of the wrong way to act here. This type of posting is simply unacceptable and in no way accurately describes the Gazette. Nor is there a shred of evidence that Tracy Allen may or may not have applied for any other job.

Any more like this will result in the expulsion of this member. - HH
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Head Honcho
theskeptic wrote:

In relation to the question as to whether the reporter interviewed the engineers and planners who left the employ of the city, there are two possibilities namely (a) she did interview them or (b) she did not interview them.  Additionally, they either (a) spoke to her and provided information or (b) they declined to discuss the matter. Whatever, the permutations and combinations of the above, it is an established journalistic practice to inform the reader as to the actual situation.   In this case, this was never done and represents a defect in the quality of the reporting on this topic.

EDIT: - There is a third option you have not considered, that being the reporter chose not to ask the question at all as it was considered no one's business but the parties who departed. - HH

Secondly,  the suggestion that “no one who wants to work again is going to speak out against a former employer” is simply not borne out in the real world.  Lots of people are perfectly frank about their dissatisfaction with their former employee …. and still have employment. Knowing the reason for an applicant’s departure from their former employ, often provides justification in the minds of their new employer as to why they should be hired by the new company.  Therefore to assume that these people would not speak out against their former employer and use that as a justification for not interviewing them would seems to be a questionable practice for a reporter.

Finally, the mere fact that this Reporter considered the general annual turnover rates to somehow address the problem of key personnel leaving, is rather disconcerting.  However, obviously she did so since she attempted to devalue MacKay’s comments by saying “The [MacKay] interview was given prior to the release of the statistics”.  

EDIT:- This is flat out wrong. The interview referred to was with Prefontaine and not MacKay. Read the story again and it is very obvious. - HH

It is understandable that Prefontaine would throw up these statistics as a smokescreen.  The fact that she accepted his statistics as an answer to the central question without an ounce of skepticism does not provide confidence in the journalistic validity of the entire news story.
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Observer
Actually it says both interviews were given prior to the numbers being given. Not sure how that devalues MacKay's comments, merely a statement of fact. I note the article also spoke to developers, one expressed concern about the turnover and Hughes did as well. This story definitely demonstrates there is a problem.

As for skeptic's assertion that people expressing dissatisfaction with their employer in the media yields no ill results, that is just plain wrong. More than enough evidence to the contrary in the real world. Not to mention in an age where giving someone a bad job reference can get you sued, imagine besmirching Prefontaine. We have already seen one city employee sue for a blog that was inconsequential.

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theskeptic

I wrote in part “In relation to the question as to whether the reporter interviewed the engineers and planners who left the employ of the city, there are two possibilities namely (a) she did interview them or (b) she did not interview them.  Additionally, they either (a) spoke to her and provided information or (b) they declined to discuss the matter. Whatever, the permutations and combinations of the above, it is an established journalistic practice to inform the reader as to the actual situation.   In this case, this was never done and represents a defect in the quality of the reporting on this topic.”

Editors note  EDIT: - There is a third option you have not considered, that being the reporter chose not to ask the question at all as it was considered no one's business but the parties who departed. - HH

If she chose not to ask the question at all, then it seems she should hardly be writing an opinion piece which suggests that there is nothing unusual about the number of engineers and planners who have left the department since Prefontaine became the department head.  After all, that is the question on everyone’s mind is “did these experience key personnel leave because of dissatisfaction with Prefontaine’s appointment.  If you chose not to ask …. then you are hardly qualified to write an opinion piece suggesting otherwise.

  EDIT:- This is flat out wrong. The interview referred to was with Prefontaine and not MacKay. Read the story again and it is very obvious. - HH

Well here is the quote from the paper.  “People weren’t satisfied with the leadership they’re receiving in the department.  I think that’s quite obvious.” MacKay said.  He said he’s never seen turnover this high in the planning and engineering department.  The interview was given prior to the release of the statistics.” [emphasis added]

So I think it is reasonably clear that: (1) the interview that she is talking about is the interview with MacKay.  Secondly, the implication of adding the sentence which I have underlined is to suggest that MacKay’s conclusions that “he’s never seen turnover this high” is inaccurate as established by the Prefontaine annual turnover statistics which Prefontaine published after the interview with MacKay.

So, I’m not “flat out wrong” as the interview she is talking about is obviously the interview with MacKay. Read the story again and it is very obvious. Theskeptic.

 
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