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City auditor facing criticism of his own

7/14/2017, 7:14 a.m.
Umesh Dalal has put many of the bureaucrats at Richmond City Hall in the hot seat during his 11 years ...

The trigger for the five-year effort to change the culture came from complaints about racial discrimination involving some supervisors dating back to 2010. The complaints went public in 2011 and ultimately led to a lawsuit in which African-American pipefitters in the department sued DPU and the city over racial discrimination in training, pay and promotions. The suit ultimately was settled in the employees’ favor.

According to Mr. Dalal’s report, employee surveys conducted by TMI since 2013, as well as a separate survey by an independent consultant, found that “work conditions have not substantially improved since the inception of the project. An atmosphere of low morale, stress and high anxiety continues.”

The report also states that DPU workers “have lost trust in a management system that is supposed to be unbiased and provide equal opportunity to all employees.”

Instead, “employees allege management by intimidation and a continual shortage of resources” to do their jobs safely and effectively.

In addition, employees “continue to be frustrated with a lack of equal opportunity for development and advancement,” while “the organization struggles to hire and retain talent, leaving crews short-staffed for long periods, leading to service and safety issues,” the report states.

Mr. Steidel is quoted in the report as explaining that employees believed the program would address issues that were not covered by the program and became upset when their expectations were not met. He also indicated that employees might not trust management.

In the report, Mr. Dalal questions why the program was continued instead of being changed to address the issues that concern employees and the failure of Mr. Steidel and his staff to properly ensure the program was generating improvements.

Mr. Dalal’s recommendation: End the contract with TMI and shift the resources to address employee concerns.

He also recommended that DPU capture data on the original issues of diversity development, promotion and opportunity and specifically track improvements in those areas.

And he called on DPU to establish expectations and timelines for the 700 Strong Program to make the work environment more employee-friendly and to spend more time working on pay and related issues to improve worker satisfaction.