Tag Archives: working for the City of Dickinson North Dakota

I Didn’t Like What I Was Reading About The Civil Service Commission In Dickinson, North Dakota

My previous two blog posts were about the disputed termination of former Dickinson Street Maintenance manager David Armendariz and his hearing with the Civil Service Commission.  In a second article by the Dickinson Press from December 12 about the deliberation and finding of the Civil Service Commission, it concluded that there was nothing wrong with the City of Dickinson’s termination of David Armendariz.

This finding of the Civil Service Commission made me wonder, would the Civil Service Commission ever disagree with what the City of Dickinson does?  Who are the members of the Civil Service Commission, and how are they appointed?

I have seen many times in my life, where an individual has the mistaken belief that a company or an organization will do what is right, be a fair arbiter of fact, adhere to some kind of ethics, or do what they said they were going to do.  Some companies and organizations have a methodology of stating and appearing that they will act in good faith, but proceed to delay, waste time with formality and processes, dilute facts, disregard evidence, introduce doubt, create ambiguity, with the intention of finding in the end, whatever suited their interests.

To give an example, I have read more than several newspaper articles where an individual claimed that an Electric Company, Water Company, or Gas Company removed all of the money from the individual’s bank account through an auto-pay billing or debit card transaction, due to a supposed $10,000 charge.  Here is how Electric Companies, Water Companies, and Gas Companies handle this type of dispute by a customer:

Dear Mr. Smith,

We have investigated the matter concerning your belief that you were incorrectly charged for services.  We have conducted a review of all pertinent information and examined our records.  We can find no error in billing on our part, and the charges are correct.

Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Yours Truly,

Asshole at the Electric Company

The reason that I have read more than several of these stories in the newspaper, is because the only way that these individuals were able to get their money back, was by going to a television station or newspaper and getting a reporter to go to the Electric Company, Water Company, or Gas Company and begin investigating for their news story.  At that time, when the Electric Company, Water Company, or Gas Company management learned that everything was going to be exposed, which might lead to them losing their job, they always gave the money back and issued the following statement:

“There has been a misunderstanding, which has now been addressed and resolved with Mr. Smith.”

I could go on with more stories about people mistakenly believing that a company or an organization was going to be a fair arbiter of fact, but I won’t.  The point that I want to make is this, I don’t know why any individual in Dickinson would think that they were going to get anywhere with the Civil Service Commission based on the history of outcomes.  Why even bother.

One way that the Civil Service Commission benefits the City of Dickinson, is that individuals never get anywhere, their claims are denied.  Not only are the individual’s claims denied, but the City of Dickinson doesn’t even have to pay an attorney to accomplish this.

From now on, if any employee of the City of Dickinson feels like they were unjustly or unfairly treated, hire an attorney, sue the City of Dickinson.  Don’t even waste your time going to the Civil Service Commission.

Once the City of Dickinson has to litigate again, and again, and again, then you might start to see some real change in personnel and practices with the City of Dickinson.

David Armendariz’s Rejection Of Reclaimed Concrete For Road Material

In my previous blog post, I wrote about former Dickinson Street Maintenance manager David Armendariz’s hearing before the Civil Service Commission regarding his dismissal.  At this hearing, David Armendariz said that he believed that he was terminated, because he refused to accept and approve reclaimed concrete for use in road construction instead of the “Class V” material that was specified.

I can see what David was trying to accomplish by rejecting the reclaimed concrete as a substitute for “Class V” material.  In part, David might have been wrong, but I don’t know if anybody knows why, so I will try to explain this.

I received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, not Civil Engineering.  I worked as an estimator, superintendent, project manager, inspector, and engineer on many types of projects.  I was certified by the Arizona Department of Transportation as an inspector, and I was certified as a nuclear density gauge operator to test density, a.k.a “compaction”.

In my career, very early on, I experienced my company owner, other company owners, and project owners, trying to get me to do something that was not right, to sign off on, approve, allow, cover up, or participate in work that was faulty, failing, deficient, or substandard.  I had to think about, who was this going to harm, who was this going to endanger, what are the possible consequences, and who would take the blame for this?

I realized that in just about every case, should the deficiency be discovered, should the work fail, should someone become hurt, the person who asked me to bend or break the rules would be saying, “I don’t know anything about it, you need to talk to that engineer who inspected it, signed off on it, and said that everything was O.K.”

David Armendariz did not want to accept reclaimed concrete as a substitute for “Class V” material, even if the Dickinson Public Works Director told him verbally that this was O.K., because David knew that if anything wrong happened later, he would be the one to take the blame, because he was the one who approved it and allowed it to be used.

David Armendariz also said that he did not want to use the reclaimed concrete because it did not compact.  I know exactly what David Armendariz was talking about when he said this.  If you have ever received a load of clean washed gravel at a jobsite, that has stones all the same size, with no fine material, running a compactor over this, is like running a compactor over marbles, everything just vibrates and it doesn’t compact.  You could look at a batch of reclaimed concrete, with no fines, and think that this is going to be like trying to compact a bunch of marbles.

The governing authority on road construction in North Dakota, is the North Dakota Department of Transportation Standard Specification For Road And Bridge Construction specification book.  This book published by the ND DOT, is 590 pages in length.  You can look it up on the internet, and read all 590 pages.

I found the sections of this ND DOT specification book, that state that reclaimed concrete is an allowable substitute for any class of aggregate specified for road base, however, this reclaimed concrete still has a gradation requirement:

From the ND DOT SSRBC:



When the Plans specify a class of aggregate for the base, the Contractor may substitute Salvaged Base Course that meets Section 817, “Salvaged Base Course.”



E. Salvage Base Course Containing Concrete Material.
Salvaged base course may be up to 100 percent concrete material.

B. Salvaged Base Course Gradation.
Sieve Size           Percent Passing
1-1/2 inch           100
1 inch                  90 – 100
No. 4                    35 – 85
No. 30                 16 – 50
No. 200               0.0 – 12.0

To be clear, the ND DOT SSRBC says that when the plans specify a class of aggregate for the base, the contractor may substitute salvaged base course that meets the requirement of section 817.  Section 817 says that the salvaged base course may be up to 100% concrete material, however section 817 also has a gradation requirement for the material.  100% of the material must pass through a 1-1/2″ sieve, 90% to 100% of the material must pass through a 1″ sieve, 35%-85% through a No. 4 sieve and so on.

I can understand David Armendariz trying to not accept reclaimed concrete that did not appear to have the required mix of material sizes, but the ND DOT SSRBC does allow reclaimed concrete to be substituted for aggregate used as base material.

Too bad nobody got out the ND DOT Standard Specifications For Road And Bridge Construction specification book, like a year ago.  But it is hard to read, in sections that refer to sections that refer to sections.

The Disputed Termination Of David Armendariz In Dickinson, North Dakota

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:

  1. 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.)
  2.  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:

  1. Failure to track incoming calls.
  2. Failure to properly code invoices.
  3. 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.