Wow, this story appears to be resonating. Going by my Saturday morning shopping survey where I just track what friends I run in to bring up. Five out of six brought it up (and they all loved the hairdresser line). It definitely appears to be topic #1 now when people think about the city government.
First off, lets discuss the difficulty of addressing this for council members and others involved in City government. Crystal is a nice and very likable person. I met her a couple of times and exchanged a lot of emails with her in the last election and I both respected and liked her. It's rough in a case like that to face a problem like this and to consider that you may have to significantly change how you think of someone and how you are going to interact with them.
This is much rougher for most of the city council members. The present council is by and large a very close-knit group that has been working together for 10, 20, or more years. They are long term colleagues with very close relationships. Just as we see the faults in other's kids much more easily than we see the faults in our own, it is very difficult in a case like this for the other council-members to step back and look at the situation clearly.
Our council-members are human. If it takes them a couple of more days to make this transition, give them some understanding. But the council-members do need to step back, and evaluate the situation dispassionately.
Ok, lets postulate that Crystal did put in a 40 hour work week, but that lots of it was telecommuting. I have a lot of experience here having both telecommuted myself and managed many telecommuters (mostly programmers). And it is true that on average a telecommuter is more productive than the average office employee.
But, there is also a much wider variation in the productivity of telecommuters than of office workers. This is because some do not have the self-discipline to sit down and work. And telecommuting does not include shopping time, lunch time, or getting your hair done. Yes you can get a great idea while doing any of those things and you then make a note - but that's not part of you work time - that's extra you put in as a knowledge worker. Because 99% of your time doing that you are not focused on work.
And while telecommuting can be great for people who sit down and work, it is a lot more difficult for a manager. At one company where I managed a development staff where we purchased 2 computers for each person, one for home, and they all worked most days at home - I had to be at the office all day long every day. A large part of managing is talking to your employees so I had to be there when the others did work at the office so I could track what they were doing and what problems they were hitting.
Crystal stood the standard approach on its head, where all her employees were in the office all day long but she was only there for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Her main job was managing an entire department and in a job like that most of her time should be interacting with others - yet she was rarely there. I don't see how she could perform her primary responsibility in this manner.
Yes, telecommuting is very successful and can be used in a lot of scenarios. But Crystal's approach, for her specific job and management responsibilities, with all of her direct reports in the office - makes no sense.
We go to Channel 7 to get the original story (kudos to the news team there for a great job). And we have a follow-on story from the Daily Camera. From these we get generalities from Crystal, but no specifics to show when she was putting in the time. On the flip side, we do have the 7 News team documenting day after day work shifts of, in some cases under, 2 hours.
According to Occam's razor, the facts presented by 7 News, Crystal's immediate resignation, and Crystal's decision to not provide any substantive counter-proof, leads to the conclusion that she was working 2 - 4 hours/day max. It is also interesting that no employee of hers has stepped forward to back up Crystal's claim of putting in a full day - this is the dog that didn't bark.
In addition, Susan's time cards, according to the news story, were marked as working from 9 - 5. Yet clearly during that time she was at times shopping, getting her hair done, etc. If she was making up that time in the early morning or late evening, the time cards did not reflect that. So by her own admission, the time cards she turned in were incorrect.
If Crystal has a legitimate defense, she can and should present it. And I, as well as many others, would be very willing to evaluate that defense. (Note to Crystal - if you have information that exonerates you, or even makes this less bad, I am happy to post anything you send me here on my blog, complete and in full.) But with no defense and her decision to resign immediately, then it forces us with that limited information to draw conclusions that are not favorable to Crystal.
With our elected representatives we always have to evaluate them based on incomplete information. We don't have time to learn everything and they are never going to tell us everything. Yet we must make judgments on that limited information because these are the people we entrust with our government. Crystal can decide if we will get more information - but we cannot refuse to decide because of limited information - her role in our government requires that we evaluate and decide with the information available to us.
Why This Matters
We don't elect a collection of position statements. We elect people that we entrust to take a dispassionate, evenhanded approach to running our government. We don't expect them to always agree with us. And for the vast majority of their work we trust them to make a good decision without our even looking at the choices they evaluate.
This means we invest our elected representatives with a lot of our trust. Without that trust the system does not work because the rest of us don't have the time to look at every decision that comes in front of the council and determine if the decisions they make are reasonable.
With what everyone knows of Crystal's situation, she does not have that trust. And if further investigation shows that she truly did only work 2 - 4 hours/day, then she clearly does not deserve our trust. And in this case, she should not be on the council. Because if she will lie to Adams County to get paid for work she did not do, will she lie to us to vote on legislation to provide her personally with an advantage?
And what the rest of the council does matters a lot too. Because if they do not decide to investigate this, then they are telling the populace of Boulder that this is not a serious issue. And in that case the entire council itself takes on the same opprobrium of accepting this behavior.
They also in this case make it very difficult for Frank Bruno to require a full day's work of City employees as they can all point to a council-member as an example of why 2 hours work for 8 hours pay is acceptable. Just as children follow their parent's example, city employees will follow the example of the council.
Finally, as one person told me, "maybe the council does not want to investigate this because they could not survive similar scrutiny." Just as one bad cop makes all cops look worse and one bad doctor hurts the medical profession, a refusal to investigate impacts all of you negatively.
I take no joy in saying the council needs to address this. I take no joy in calling on Crystal to resign. I feel sorry for her in that this has ended her political career as she was clearly impassioned in her council work. But I do think it's necessary to do both.
And Crystal, for your own sake I suggest you resign quickly. This looks like you made a big mistake, but staying in office will keep the entire issue front and center on you. If you resign you can get on with your life.