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Pine Ridge councilmember says, “micromanagement is a management style,” in contentious council meet

Pine Ridge, SC (Paul Kirby) - During the contentious November meeting of the Pine Ridge town council Tuesday, councilmember Daniel Davis addressed the angry citizens gathered in the room about the high turnover rate at the Pine Ridge Police Department. More specifically, he addressed comments made by the five police chiefs who had been hired or appointed and then resigned since Robert Wells was elected mayor three years ago. The recurring theme among their resignations were that the mayor micromanaged the police department preventing them from doing their jobs. 

Davis, the only councilmember serving on the Public Safety Committee alongside Wells, said in the past, he’s shared with the mayor his thoughts that Wells was more involved in managing the department than Davis himself would be. “Micromanagement is an accepted management style; not my style but it is certainly a style,” Davis said. Then he went on to explain why he continued to support the mayor even after ten certified officers have resigned from the PRPD during Wells’ three-year tenure. Wells said Tuesday evening that out of the ten officers who’ve left, only one was terminated. All the others had resigned. 

Davis said that the officers who resigned often said the mayor wouldn't let them do their job. He went on to say that none ever specifically said what portion of the job they were prevented from doing. “I've never heard any officer that has resigned say specifically the mayor told me that I couldn't enforce codes in the town; nobody has said the mayor told me I couldn't write any tickets when people are speeding; nobody has said the mayor told me I couldn't investigate crimes,” he continued. “My point is if you're going to resign, be specific. I think some people have thrown out some very arbitrary pieces of words when they resigned, be specific,” Davis continued. He told the crowd that being specific helps the town’s council and the citizens have a better understanding on what’s wrong so it can be addressed. “So, if somebody leaves and the only thing they say is they wouldn't let me do my job, what does that mean? What do we need to correct if we don't get anything in that is specific?” Davis said as he closed that comment. 

A quick check on the internet found a number of reputable sites with articles on the topic of micromanagement. None of them said that this was a good management style. In fact, usnews.org has published multiple articles on micromanaging. In one entitled, Nine Qualities of Bad Managers published on November 14th, 2019 the article reads, “Micromanaging doesn’t benefit your direct reports in the long run. In addition to causing stress in the workplace, it also prevents your employees from demonstrating their creativity and enthusiasm for projects.” That same article ends its section on micromanaging by saying, “Employees are averse to micromanaging bosses and they will leave at their first opportunity, which also affects organizational development.”

In an article in the Harvard Business Review at hbr.org  entitled Signs That You’re a Micromanager, one key paragraph reads, “The problem with micromanagers is that they apply the same level of intensity, scrutiny and in-your-face approach to every task, whether warranted or not. The bottom line is: you need to stop. It’s harming your team’s morale and – ultimately – their productivity.” More of these same type articles are easy to find using Google.

One former Pine Ridge police chief who was celebrated and supported and congratulated by his former employer when he was sworn in and was loved by the community while he was in Pine Ridge said in a phone interview Wednesday, “When you have that many people leave a department and there's one common complaint, you have to realize there’s a common denominator. If Councilman Davis wanted specifics, he could have just as easily reached out to me. My phone number is the same number I had before I went to Pine Ridge, while I was there, and still is the same today. It seems like someone with as much sense as Daniel Davis would eventually realize that he's hearing the same thing over and over again. He could call a few former employees and ask questions. Telephones work both ways. Perhaps they should do exit interviews. I’d be happy to speak with him and provide specifics.” 

That former chief said he felt bad for the citizens of Pine Ridge. “I hold no ill will toward the citizens, it’s a great little town. They deserve better and it appears the only way they are going to get that is to make a change at the voting booth next November. Until then, everything will continue along the same path. If they find a great consultant who identfies a great candidate for chief and they hire one, if the mayor can’t control himself and stop being a bad leader in that aspect, they’re going to be without competent police protection for an extended period of time again.”

Councilman Davis said that he would invite any former employee to come in and have an honest discussion about why they left. He did not say how or if he would actually extend that invitation. He also said there was a lot of information that was being passed around that simply was not true. He admitted he thought that most of the officers who left were good people and he felt the town’s leaders did have some responsibility for their departure. Davis said he would like to, “see if they would sign something like a hold harmless agreement so we can have a discussion about why they're not here.” He reiterated that he wanted to have an honest discussion by saying, “I would love to have a forum where we could have an open and honest discussion but unfortunately, we cannot do that.”

At this point, only one member of the town's council has indicated they’ve reached out to any former employees about why they left their positions with the town. The details of those discussions were considered private communications and have not been revealed. 

Tuesday night, the council voted to go into executive session which is held behind closed doors. After they returned to open session, they informed the audience they had decided to go in a different direction in their hiring process. They are looking to employ a service or consultant that could help them find qualified applicants for the police department. 

In most cases, because the expense of such a service or consultant can exceed the limit the town’s council can spend without seeking competitive bids, looking for such a service would probably require they issue a Request for Proposal or a Request for Bids. Those bid packages would describe what specific services the town was looking for. The returned bids would be opened in public on a set date and time. The final negotiations regarding awarding a contract would then be held behind closed doors in executive session as prescribed by law. 




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