Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Things are running afoul at City Hall in downtown Alexandria, and it’s getting ugly.”
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the shenanigans at City Hall, I’m speaking of the investigation and the subsequent termination of Von Jennings, the mayor’s assistant in charge of developing and implementing a program designed to help minority- and women-owned businesses secure city contracts.
Sometimes back in December, Mayor Roy put Jennings first on a paid administrative leave then without for allegedly being disloyal to him. Jennings claims the mayor did so because of she allegedly leaked privileged information about certain city matters supposedly to certain City Council members. With the rift going on between Mayor Roy and the majority black council members, her leaking information to Roy’s adversaries was a serious betrayal of the trust that he had in her.
After Jennings was placed on administrative leave, things began to go downhill for her as word came out from city administration that she was not adequately performing her job. Things such as not following up with contacts and returning telephone calls, not moving projects forward, failure to attend scheduled meetings, not working cooperatively with other workforce entities, and not being at work when she was supposed to eventually resulted in her termination.
What I want to know is why these allegations of Jennings’ poor work performance did not surface prior to Roy supposedly found out that she had been leaking information to others. Here’s my thing. Jennings had been in her position for almost two years, and by some account, she was performing her work and performing it well. At the 2007 Central Louisiana Business League’s Gala, Roy praised Jennings for her excellent work. To me, that indicates that she was performing her duties and responsibilities. Would Roy praise members of his administrative staff who weren’t doing their jobs.
Another thing that I find puzzling is that Jennings’ so-called failure to complete certain aspects of her job was known by Roy’s chief operating officer, Kay Michiels, as she sent an e-mail to Jennings on Aug. 7 informing her that she had heard repeatedly from others that she was not performing her job duties and responsibilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that Michiels met with Roy and informed him of the apparent situation concerning Jennings. I would think that this was something that he definitely needed to know, especially if it concerned someone on his staff. Jennings poor work performance must have not been that big of a deal at the time because if it was, Roy would have put her on notice that she needed to improve her work by first giving her an oral warning, and if improvement wasn’t shown, giving her a written warning, and finally, if some improvement still wasn’t noticed, putting her on administrative leave.
From what I know of this case from either reading published reports or word-of-mouth from those who are privy to the ins/outs of this disagreement between Jennings and Roy, I haven’t found anything that speaks of Roy starting disciplinary action on Jennings before December 2008.
Now, if Roy had started disciplinary action by doing what I indicated above, and Jennings did not meet the measures that he had set forth for her, he would have had every right to terminate her after placing her on administrative leave, but that didn’t happen. As to why no action was taken by the administration is anyone’s guess, as disciplinary action is a standard practice used by most local, state, and federal agencies to weed out bad and underperforming employees. In the administration’s eye, Jennings was an underperforming employee, yet she was still allowed to continue doing her work as usual. Go figure.
Everything that has happened to Jennings has all the markings of a something foul. It’s a cover up by Roy to get rid of an employee who was not a “team player,”and who was disloyal. Using her work performance was a ruse. Roy, who stated that Jennings was an at-will employee on his staff who worked at his pleasure, could have terminated her just on her leaking information. Yes, there would have been questions as to the reason she was terminated, but Roy wouldn’t had have to give an answer.
Towards the end of Ned Randolph’s administration, he terminated three employees. When asked why, he never really gave a clear reason for doing so. To this day, no one really can say why the three were terminated. Roy could have done the same instead of coming up with that bull about Jennings poor work performance. But hey, he is looking ahead; he’s got to CYA.
One would think that by Jennings’ termination from her position, Roy wouldn’t have anything else to say about her, but that is not the case. When he reintroduced his Diversity In Action Plan, he stated that it only took between 60 to 90 days to fully implement it, as it wasn’t done in the two years that Jennings was in charge of it. Roy didn’t come out and directly say Jennings’ name, but his reference to the work not being done clearly pointed to Jennings.
Roy has let us know that he is the man in charge at city hall, and that he has no problems playing hardball to get what he wants. That includes having his administrative staff hire a private investigator to follow staff around to document your every movement. He states that he had no knowledge of an investigation of Jennings. Come on, Jacques, you’re the mayor, and you had no inclination that this was going to take place. Give us a break.
A word of wise to those of you work directly under the mayor –“you’ve better keep your nose clean, keep information to yourself, do your work, and bow down to Jacques if you want to keep your job.