Newspeak At City Hall

It’s understandable that a mayor would want to be careful when evaluating top employees in writing. It’s a public record. There are sensitivities. Hence, the flap over how Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio evaluated former Fire Chief Aria Ray Green.

Apparently Green, whose allegedly aloof, sometimes tactless leadership style was adversely affecting morale, was evaluated more critically in person than on paper. Which is understandable – and hardly precedent-setting.

Theoretically this is still better than what former Mayor Dick Greco did. Which was nothing other than a verbal evaluation. Which comes up short on accountability for highly-placed public officials.

What doesn’t compute, however, is a written record that allows for one of three ratings: outstanding, excellent and successful. Green was accorded an “excellent,” which he subsequently has cited as being at variance with a performance that resulted in his forced resignation.

He might have a point if the written evaluation were credible and didn’t require a wink and a nod. Outstanding, excellent and successful. Say what? How much farther would department morale have had to plummet for Green to have been adjudged merely “successful?”

If Newspeak is the game, why not super, superior, splendid and superb? Or if obfuscation isn’t a goal, maybe MacArthur minus the hubris, effective, satisfactory, ineffective, not salvageable and pyromaniac? Or Good, bad and ugly?

In retrospect, the promotion of Green, a good, decent, intelligent man seemingly ill-suited to handle the department’s good ol’ boy union dynamic, was a mistake, however well intentioned. However awkwardly, that has been addressed with the swearing in of Fire Chief Dennis Jones.

What remains unaddressed are written evaluation standards that are misleading and unworthy of the process.

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