I am very concerned about the fate of the History Museum of Mobile’s long-standing staff who are being laid off Aug. 1. I have volunteered at the Fort Conde Visitors’ Center for 14 years, and have grown very fond of the employees who manage the operations of that facility. They are dedicated, conscientious and hardworking. They have served the city of Mobile faithfully and are being repaid with a cold-hearted disregard for their financial well being, including access to health care coverage.
I realize that the History Museum’s Board of Directors is seeking to consolidate management and operations through its own governance. It is seeking to have sole authority over the museum so that past disputes over which governing body has the final decision-making authority may be resolved. In the long run, this policy change is in the best interest of the museum.
However, in the short run, employees and their families are being given the short end of the stick. The City Council has allocated funds to pay these employees through the end of the 2014/15 fiscal year. However, the mayor has terminated them effective Aug. 1. Now the museum board is scrambling to determine how it will fully fund the operation of the museum without a performance contract, and how it will provide health coverage and other benefits to its new employees as of that date. Quite simply, these employees are being thrown to the wind because there is conflict between the mayor’s office and the History Museum’s board of directors.
Should a conflict of interest between two governing bodies so adversely affect the financial well being of long-standing employees who have remained faithful to the city of Mobile? Can the mayor effectively terminate positions that are funded through Sept. 30, 2015? Does anyone care about the welfare of these employees?
I have requested that the City Council take up this issue at the July 7 City Council meeting. However, the administrative personnel who took my agenda request in person told me that the hiring and firing of city employees is at the discretion of the mayor’s office. This employee (who will remain nameless) told me that the City Council may not even choose to take up the issue at the council meeting. And when I spoke to the Assistant to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, I was referred to Ricardo Woods, legal representative for the city of Mobile, who has yet to return my call. In short, no one will tell me what the city plans to do with the allocated funds for museum staff employees. Will they give this budget outlay to the History Museum’s board of directors so these employees can continue to faithfully serve the city of Mobile?
In short, no one with whom I have attempted to communicate has explained why city employees’ positions funded through the action of the City Council are being withdrawn at a time when the History Museum of Mobile’s board lacks a strategic plan for employing these hard-working staff members.
This heavy-handed political maneuvering hurts everyone. The city employees involved are harmed; the visitors to our city who want to learn about our history could potentially face a temporarily closed facility; and the citizens and school children of our community who wish to visit their city’s cultural legacy may temporarily lack a museum to educate them on our city’s legacy.
We can do better than this. Tell the mayor to keep these employees on the city’s payroll until the beginning of the 2015/16 fiscal year. The mayor’s office’s phone number is 251-208-7395. Please call and stand up for these employees. It could be your job being eliminated. Take a few minutes to help someone in need.
Ronald David Hunt