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The Marc Ott-Fort Worth Connection

Ott’s hire as city manager recommended by subordinate
who Ott then hired as Austin assistant city manager
 
by Ken Martin
© The Austin Bulldog 2012
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2012 2:37pm
Updated Tuesday, August 14, 2012 3:23pm
Corrected Tuesday August 14, 2012 4:59pm

In late 2007, as Austin City Manager Toby Futrell was getting ready to retire, the city hired Arcus, a consulting firm based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to find suitable candidates for a new city manager.

Marc OttMarc OttMarc Ott, one of two finalists, was named city manager by a vote of 6-0 January 17, 2008, with one abstention.

The undated 22-page Arcus report, which The Austin Bulldog obtained through an open records request, suggests that Ott, who was formerly an assistant city manager of the City of Fort Worth, and another Fort Worth executive essentially came as a package deal.

As an assistant city manager in Fort Worth, Ott was the immediate supervisor of Robert D. Goode, a professional engineer who was Fort Worth’s director of the Transportation and Public Works Department. Ott signed Goode’s performance evaluations in Fort Worth, rating his work “superior.”

Robert GoodeRobert GoodeGoode wrote a glowing two-page letter of recommendation for Ott to support his application to be Austin’s city manager. It was the only recommendation letter in the copy of the Arcus report provided to The Austin Bulldog.

“Throughout my 25 year career, I have worked for many good organizations and many good supervisors. Simply put, Marc Ott is the best supervisor I have ever worked for. He brings out the best in me, and that should be the primary goal of any supervisor,” Goode wrote, in the letter dated December 19, 2007.

The letter includes an anecdote about an employee in the city manager’s office who was a disappointment to other assistant city managers, who were “essentially resigned to the fact this employee was never going to be a stellar performer,” but whose performance was increased “exponentially” as a result of Ott’s personal effort to mentor and challenge her.

“Marc’s core beliefs, his vision, his passion for the profession, and his personable approach to managing employees make him an outstanding leader and great example of what it means to be a ‘city manager,’” Goode wrote.

Ott quickly hired Goode

Ott’s first day as Austin City Manager was February 18, 2008.


Goode’s last day of work for the City of Fort Worth was March 13, 2008, according to a copy of Goode’s personnel file from the City of Fort Worth, obtained through an open records request.

That same month, Ott appointed Goode as Austin’s assistant city manager for transportation services, according to Goode’s City of Austin web page. His current salary is $194,293, according to The Texas Tribune’s salary database.

Goode had worked in Austin before Ott hired him away from Fort Worth. According to the résumé in his Fort Worth personnel file, he was a Travis County engineer from September 2000 to December 2001, then worked for the Bury & Partners engineering firm until August 2002, when he was hired by the City of Fort Worth.
A different résumé supplied by the City of Austin after this story was initially published indicates that Goode also worked for the engineering firm Baker-Aicklen & Associates in Austin June 1985 to December 1988, and as the Travis County floodplain administrator from December 1998 to January 2002. (Update posted Tuesday, August 14, 2012 3:23pm.)

Attempts to contact Arcus to verify the report’s completeness were unsuccessful. Ott responded to The Austin Bulldog’s request to comment through the city’s media relations manager, Reyne Telles, who said in a phone interview that Arcus is no longer in business.

Telles said that Ott recalls Arcus being provided with recommendation letters from Ott’s superiors and peers in Fort Worth, as well as subordinates such as Goode.

Telles said that Arcus kept a “tight hold on those packets.” He said the consultant put information about the city manager candidates into binders for the council members to examine for discussion, and then collected the binders after each discussion ended. He could not explain why the Arcus report supplied in response to The Austin Bulldog’s open records request contained only Goode’s recommendation letter—and none from superiors or peers.

According to one person who was a council member when Ott was hired as city manager, Goode’s recommendation letter may not have carried much weight in the selection process.

Jennifer KimJennifer KimJennifer Kim told The Austin Bulldog in an e-mail,“I did see the (Arcus) package, but don’t specifically recall Goode’s letter. I know (Mayor Will) Wynn spoke to (Fort Worth) Mayor (Mike) Moncrief about Ott and got positive feedback. That was more important. ... The letters were not a consideration in our discussion of the candidates.”

Other Fort Worth connections

It’s to be expected that Ott would tend to hire people he worked with, knew, and trusted during his nearly six years of service as an assistant city manager in Fort Worth and, over time, Ott has hired several other executives from the City of Fort Worth, all of whom had “superior” performance ratings in Fort Worth.

Anthony Snipes—He was assistant water director for the City of Fort Worth. He resigned in June 2008 to take a job with the City of Austin as Ott’s chief of staff the same month. After four years as chief of staff, Snipes now serves as an acting assistant city manager overseeing the Austin Convention Center, Contract Management, Communications and Technology, Human Resources and Labor Relations. He is paid $167,294, according to The Texas Tribune’s salary database. To access Snipes’ City of Fort Worth personnel file, click here.

Carl Smart—He was executive program administrator in Fort Worth’s office of emergency management. He had 10 years previous experience as code enforcement manager for Gainesville, Florida, 1986-1996, according to the résumé in his Fort Worth personnel file. He was appointed Austin’s director of Code Compliance in July 2011 and currently makes $160,014, according to The Texas Tribune’s salary database. To access Smart’s City of Fort Worth personnel file, click here.

Mark Washington—He worked for the City of Fort Worth from September 1996 through July 2009, last serving as assistant director of Human Relations Resources (corrected Tuesday August 14, 2012 4:59pm).  He has served as Austin’s director of Human Resources since August 2009, according to The Texas Tribune’s salary database, which lists his current pay as $156,832. See: Fort Worth Personnel File for Mark Washington.

Other Bulldog coverage of Marc Ott:

City Manager’s Annual Review Postponed: Marc Ott’s Performance Review Now Set for August 16, August 2, 2012

City Manager Faces Crucial Annual Review: Bulldog Background Investigation Comes as Marc Ott’s Performance Gets Council Scrutiny, August 1, 2012

Employee E-Communication Policy Drafts Show Each Revision Weakened Rules: Policy That Was Nearly Compliant on First Draft Crippled by Changes, September 13, 2011

City Manager Establishes Policy for Employees’ Electronic Communications: Open Government Legal Experts Say Policy is Seriously Flawed, But It’s an Important Start, August 10, 2011

City of Austin Dragging Its Feet on Implementing Lawful E-mail Practices: City Employees, Board and Commission Members Still Not Covered by City Policies, July 13, 2011

Treasure Trove of Public Documents Made Available in Searchable Format: E-mails, Text Messages, Meeting Notes Obtained Through Open Records, Lawsuit, May 12, 2011

Council Work Sessions Stir Concern Over Tying Up Staff for Two Meetings: City Manager Presents Summary of Options for Council Consideration, February 15, 2011

This report was made possible by contributions to The Austin Bulldog, which operates as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to provide investigative reporting in the public interest. You can help to sustain The Austin Bulldog’s reporting by making a tax-deductible contribution.