David Armendariz was hired as the City of Dickinson street maintenance manager in February of 2016.
In the summer of 2017, I was working on a project in Dickinson, when David Armendariz came up to me and introduced himself to me. He was interested in what my thoughts were on a particular problem with a street that he was responsible for maintaining.
I was surprised that he was taking the time to ask me. It was obvious that he was genuinely concerned about what was occurring with this street, though the impact of what we were doing would have only a minor effect. But still, his professionalism and the time that he took to stop and become informed on what was going on, made a good impression with me.
I was surprised at first, when I read a Dickinson Press newspaper article from December 12, 2017 titled, “Former streets manager disputes termination”. I was surprised at first, but within less than one minute, I was not surprised. Having met David Armendariz, and remembering the positive impression that he had made with me, as someone who was professional and concerned about doing a good job, it was not a surprise that Dickinson was firing someone like this, because Dickinson, North Dakota, is backwards, messed up, and sometimes corrupt.
Before I even began to read the details in the Dickinson Press newspaper article about the disputed termination, I felt that this whole situation was very bad. A City of Dickinson employee feeling that they were so unjustly and unfairly treated by the City of Dickinson, that they filed a formal complaint and requested a hearing with the Civil Service Commission. From the kind of person that I believed David Armendariz to be, no nonsense and professional, I believed that there must have been something not right going on.
After I had read this entire Dickinson Press newspaper article about the hearing before the three-person Civil Service Commission, the facts that appeared to support David Armendariz were as follows:
- David claimed that the City of Dickinson Public Works director had pressured him to allow and approve the use of reclaimed concrete for road projects instead of the “Class V” material that was specified. David said that he would not approve the use of reclaimed concrete because it did not compact. The Public Works director argued with him, saying that the City of Dickinson had often used reclaimed concrete in place of “Class V” material, and that “Class V” material was hard to get. David believed that his refusal to do what the Public Works director wanted, led to his dismissal. ( I will write a second blog post article about this, to explain why this is significant.)
- As many as seven current and former City of Dickinson Street Department employees appeared at the Civil Service Commission hearing and testified on behalf of David Armendariz, stating that he was a good manager and professional, and that the Street Department did have a culture and history of division.
When I read that as many as seven current and former employees of the City of Dickinson Street Department testified on behalf of David Armendariz at his hearing, and when I read what they were quoted as saying, this explained everything to me. Especially in Dickinson, co-workers tend to keep their mouth shut in situations where someone has a conflict with management, because they don’t want to jeopardize their own jobs.
The fact that David Armendariz was not from Dickinson, and had only been the street maintenance manager for a little over 1-1/2 years, and so many co-workers were willing to come to a hearing and give testimony on his behalf, tells me that he must have been held in very high regard by his co-workers. The people who worked with David on a daily basis, felt that he did a good job, and did not find fault with him.
It appeared to me that the City of Dickinson Public Works Director did not like David Armendariz, wanted him gone, and began the process of creating the paperwork in order to have a legal and legally defensible termination. The Public Works Director had the following complaints against David Armendariz:
- Failure to track incoming calls.
- Failure to properly code invoices.
- Because of #1 and #2, it appears that the Public Works Director wanted to claim that David did not understand the computer software, David did not know how to use computers, David had insufficient job knowledge, David did not meet department expectations, David received four disciplinary actions including three written warnings.
The only specific things that it was claimed that David failed to do, was track incoming calls, and properly code invoices. All of the other allegations, seemed to be unsubstantiated general claims of “insufficient job knowledge”, “not meeting department expectations”, and “substandard work performance”.
From having worked for different companies for 30 years, if anyone ever hands an employee a written warning or a “work improvement plan”, that employee had better start looking for another job, because this is the beginning of the end for him or her. The reason that I say this, is because if an employee is liked, a supervisor or co-worker will gladly work with them on something that they are not good at or knowledgeable about, without any negativity involved, or any need for a supervisor to document “substandard work performance”.
Another way to state this is, if a company plans on keeping an employee, they don’t start pulling out written warning sheets and work improvement plans. These documents are only needed in legal defense for an upcoming termination.
Also, from having worked for different companies for 30 years, if you are a street department manager, and the worst thing that you have done is improperly code invoices and not track incoming phone calls, this is not a big deal.
What is a big deal, is the failure of the Public Works Department to properly inspect the construction of the four-lane concrete Roers’ Road which in now collapsing, and the failure of the Public Works Department to notice that the new water tower was constructed 70′ too high and water could not be pumped into it. These two examples, which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to correct, are examples of things that someone might be fired for.
The three-person Civil Service Commission that heard David Armendariz’s appeal of his termination, I am not sure that they are not primarily looking out for the interests of the City of Dickinson. Who appointed the members of the Civil Service Commission? Are they always people whose backgrounds, careers, and work experience would make them likely to have allegiance to City government?
Could any employee appearing before the Civil Service Commission ever expect to receive a decision different than what the City government has already decided? Is this commission just a tactic to try to diffuse an employees’ attempt at legal recourse?
In my next blog post, I will explain the significance of not going along with other people’s requests to deviate from specification requirements.