Twentynine Palms, CA– I agree with Mayor Harris’ s comment “Get it right before you write.” So I have spent the majority of the past 5 days trying to do that. I have spent countless hours reading through newspaper articles, city council minutes, and interviewing people from South Jordan, Utah to Grand Forks, North Dakota to Livingston, California. I did this because I also agree with Dan and others that we (citizens of 29) were not given enough information about the person that was chosen for us even before the council voted on Tuesday night.
This time line is meant to condense Richard Warne’s 28 years of experience and, at the same time, include relevant facts that will help you make your own conclusions of what type of leadership we might expect from Mr. Warne.
1982-1991- Mr. Warne began his career as a City Administrator in South Jordan, Utah, a town so small that it didn’t even have a grocery store. In 1982, South Jordan’s claim to fame was the newly constructed Jordan River Utah Temple. The Temple brought many visitors to the area, (reportedly 5,000 visitors a day) but the visitors were often confused as to what town the Temple was located in.
“A lot of people say they’ve been to the `West Jordan Temple,’ ” said South Jordan City Administrator Richard Warne.
He and Assistant Administrator Tony Murphy laugh at the common mistake, but they understand it and are troubled by its implications: South Jordan is suffering an identity crisis. What the city needs, they say, are a few commercial establishments and more light industry with South Jordan appended to their addresses. (Deseret News Aug. ’91)
An economic plan was developed to bring in restaurants, banks, and supermarkets. This plan had 10 goals and strategies that included assigning city officials and staff with responsibilities for each goal.
City Administrator Warne was confident that South Jordan could have it all- the semi-rural lifestyle that residents were used to with the development that would bring economic development to the town.
Not everyone was happy with the direction the town was going, which is not uncommon. One city council hopeful, as reported by Deseret News October 3, 1991, stated that she wanted to return the city back to the city council style of government. She felt that the council had become a “rubber stamp” to the City Administration.
From Deseret News
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 1991
Richard N. Warne, who has served as city administrator of South Jordan during the decade of its most rapid growth, announced his resignation Tuesday.
Warne said he is leaving the job on Oct. 1 to accept a position with the Utah Risk Management Association. He said he was hired nine years ago with the directive to increase efficiency, establish sound fiscal practices, improve services, manage growth and maintain South Jordan’s country lifestyle.
“I can report that the record shows that I have accomplished these objectives,” Warne said, citing a number of accomplishments, including adoption of growth management plans and policies. ..”
With Warne’s departure and the resignation of Police Chief Duane H. Sutherland in May, South Jordan faced replacement of two major community figures in the coming weeks.
Later, Mr. Warne was elected to the South Jordan City Council. While on the city council, he also took a job in Ivin, Utah as City Manager. For a time, he tried to keep both jobs. He would use electronic means to participate in South Jordan’s City Council and lived and worked in Ivin, but fellow city council members were not satisfied with this situation.
SOUTH JORDAN — Richard Warne, a longtime council member who fought last month to remain active on the council via electronic participation, has resigned.
Warne faxed his resignation to Mayor Dix McMullin’s office and McMullin made the announcement in Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
“I finished what I set out to do and have resigned, that’s about it,” Warne said Friday.
May 2000- September 2000 Ivin, Utah City Manager- Sorry, I couldn’t find any newsworthy information… Town’s population approx 4,000
September 11, 2000- May 1st 2001- Grand Forks, North Dakota
Grand Forks narrowed their field from 70 applicants to their top 3. Warne was considered to be the top contender for a newly created position of Administrative Coordinator.
Warne, a local government consultant from South Jordan, Utah, will be in Grand Forks today to be interviewed for the city’s newly created administrative coordinator position. He is the third of three finalists to be interviewed.
His interview will be open to the public at 12:30 p.m. today in Room A102 at City Hall, 255 N. Fourth St. (Grand Forks Herald)
Warne later clears up the confusion of an incomplete application:
In a telephone interview from his office in Ivins, Utah, Richard Warne said his current position as Ivins city manager, a position he’s held since May 1, wasn’t mentioned when he met with Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown in late July.
Warne further explained that he wasn’t trying to mislead anyone, he had the two offers and he said he wouldn’t know anything about Grand Forks until later in the year. Mayor Brown told the Herald, “You have to do what you have to do in the meantime. It’s a fact of life. You don’t vegetate while you’re waiting. I assumed he was working somewhere.”
Richard Warne was hired in a new position that, in hindsight, some in the town felt was not well defined. That is one reason why some city council members believe that things did not go well for Mr. Warne in North Dakota. Mayor Brown was also newly elected and Grand Forks had a complicated city government with 13 city councilmen and 37 committees. Warne tried to streamline the system and look for more efficient ways to run the city council meetings that sometimes lasted late into the night.
I talked via telephone to two council members that served with Warne. Both stated that he was a great organizer and helped the city council trim down to 7 members and eliminated several of the committees. Both also said he was a hard worker. They felt that Mr. Warne had done what was asked of him and that was to change things and shake things up. Everything was well documented in city minutes and in the Herald.
Mr. Warne’s contract caused some concern among the council. Warne had negotiated for 13% retirement and the going rate was 4%. In a council vote, it was amended to 10% pension contribution. One city councilperson thought this might create a precedence for other employees. Others objected to an open-ended contract, but Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown explained that the contract term was left open because often an employee will begin renegotiating for a better salary and benefits just before a contract comes up for renewal.
Warne’s contract was approved as amended and a committee comprising Brown and council members Duane Lunak and Doug Christensen was formed to renegotiate the deal with Warne.
Warne began his new job earning a yearly salary of $88,000.
Six months later, things began to head south for Mr. Warne. An employee sent a letter to Mayor Brown complaining that Mr. Warne was taking on too much of an administrative role and was over reaching his job description. Warne denied that he had been adversarial and was just taking on issues that had been neglected for years.
“At last Monday’s council meeting, in the wake of the complaint, council member Terry Bjerke thanked Warne for his dedicated service to the city. Warne then received a round of applause from the council and those in the audience.” (Herald 2/15/2001)
To make a long story a little shorter, even though Mayor Brown came to the conclusion that the he had not found evidence of these allegations, he had other concerns about Warne’s management style and placed him on extended paid vacation. In May 2001, Warne resigned, citing a vague job description and politicking within City Hall that made it impossible for him to continue his job.
Brown said Warne could expect about half of his base salary plus benefits for a total of about $52,000 in severance pay. (Herald)
Due to the length of this article and the numbness in my fingers, I will continue this in another article that will discuss Coalinga, my visit in Livingston, CA, and my conversation with Mr. Warne.
Part 2: Coalinga to 29 Palms
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