Chamber President Claims City Manager Confronted Him in Public
by Glendale Chamber of Commerce on January 22nd, 2015

City Manager, Brenda Fischer
Posted: Glendale Star Thursday, January 22, 2015

By DARRELL JACKSON, Staff Writer

An incident at a local restaurant has the city council in discussions as to what to do about possible ethics and human resources violations by City Manager Brenda Fischer. The city council has called a special meeting for 3 p.m. Fri. Jan. 23 to discuss matters of personnel and performance concerning Fischer and Chamber President and CEO Robert Heidt.

Heidt e-mailed the mayor and each councilmember about a confrontation between himself and Fischer.
Mayor Jerry Weiers assistant Thomas Adkins said the Mayor had no comment on this matter at this time.

“On Tuesday (Jan. 13), I was having lunch with our 2015 Chairman of the Board, Bobbi Magdaleno, at (a local restaurant),” Heidt said in the e-mail to the council. “While having lunch….(Fischer) asked could she interrupt for a moment regarding the recent situation with the event issues.”

That was reference to the fact that White Eyes Fresh Fry Bread Co. has applied for and been denied entry into more than 30 weekend special events within Glendale. Owners John and Alice Roach said that all the denials have been cited around the volume of applicants and the array of products and menus. They are also already permitted for food trucks and special events.

“I have applied 42 times for events in Glendale to be denied 37 times,” John Roach said. “The city uses a jury system to choose vendors, but a majority of the vendors are from out of state, which just doesn’t make sense to us. We have a business in Glendale that provides sales tax to the city and we estimate that our business not being at the big events may have cost the city about $200,000 in sales tax because they use out-of-state vendors.”

Roach also added that he has talked to numerous local businesses who also do not apply anymore because they have been denied numerous times with no explanation. Each application for events costs the businesses a $25 non-refundable application fee.

“We are not against competition, we love it and it is great for business,” Roach said. “We can triple sales of other vendors, but I think our exclusion now has become personal because we are questioning the way vendors are chosen.”

Roach had contacted the chamber, who then requested to the council that perhaps, “there could be some thought given to allowing a certain number of Glendale specific companies each year, that a ‘lottery’ could be held to select the winners in a public format to ensure fairness and transparency.”

Heidt said he was confronted by Fischer at a local public restaurant and she raised her voice at him and pointed her finger while berating him.

“She was confrontational, unprofessional and borderline attacking me,” Heidt said. “Her body language and she kept gesturing and pointing at me with her hands. The way she moved her body drew more attention to let people know that there was more than meets the eye.”

Two assistant managers of the restaurant and a patron not involved with either party have confirmed that the incident happened and that Fischer was asked to “take it outside if they were going to continue to argue.”

Heidt said Fischer proceeded to tell him that “he had no right to e-mail her council, the chamber was wrong in the past regarding the (White Eyes Fry Bread) incident.” He also claims that Fischer said his e-mail, “caused a morale problem for her and city staff,” and he had “no right to ask for a meeting that would involve Julie Watters (Communication Manager), when Fischer said the meeting should be with someone from code and enforcement.”

Heidt also said Fischer has stated that the city was “far too busy with the Super Bowl and that they would deal with this issue after the game,” even though the questions began in October 2014.

Fischer, in an e-mail response to the incident, claims she was defending city staff.

“In that conversation, I believed that city employees’ integrity and professionalism were being attacked without all the facts,” Fischer said. “That has a negative effect on employees’ morale, so I defended city employees by communicating that impact.”

Heidt said there was no discussion; in fact, he felt berated and he never raised his voice while he accused Fischer of raising her voice and getting agitated.

“It wasn’t screaming, but the tone was loud enough that we were approached by patrons to take it outside,” Heidt said. “Plus, it was directed at (Fischer) because we never raised our voice or even got up from our seats.”

Fischer added that, “the good news is that we are both passionate about, and love the city. A healthy debate and disagreement based on the opposing professional views is part of doing business, and in my opinion, that’s exactly what occurred.”

According to numerous city councilmembers, Fischer may be in violation of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Code of Ethics, Tenet 3. It states that city managers must “be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public.”

As a contract employee, it is uncertain Fischer could be held to the City of Glendale’s Human Resources values on professional respect, which states “employees should show professional respect at all times. Professional respect does not preclude honest differences of opinion; it does preclude attacking a person’s motives or integrity.”

Fischer, while not responding directly to claims made by Heidt, did refer to her leadership over the city.

“As my record of performance indicates, I’m always open to, and encourage, review of city processes and procedures to seek improvement in our operations,” Fischer said. “Under my leadership over the past 18 months, I have implemented numerous improvements in city operations, many of which have been positively recognized publicly and privately.”

Heidt is looking to change city procedures and how events are run, but not an apology.

“After this incident, I just reached out to the council and sent them an e-mail about what happened,” Heidt said. “Am I looking for an apology, no…..retaliation, no. I just want to see a change in the culture from our city staff. It is not healthy for city leaders to attack business leaders when we disagree with the city. This is not an isolated incident and I have been berated by Fischer and her staff in the past.”

Fischer did not apologize for the incident.

“My leadership style has been described as extrovert, assertive and candid,” she said. “At the same time, I care deeply about our employees and this organization, thus my passion on this topic.”

The city manager and communications director both believe that the response from Fischer answered the questions brought forth by Heidt.

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