‘Poor’ FM leadership is being too kind

In its Dec. 11, 2013, edito­rial, “U director shows poor leadership,” the Minnesota Daily editorial board alerted the University community and Minnesota taxpayers to the KMSP report “Investiga­tors: U insider” from Nov. 26, 2013. We encourage ev­eryone to watch the video to see for themselves that tuition and tax dollars are certainly being wasted by Facilities Management ad­ministration.

Countless co-workers of mine and fellow University staff agree with the Daily’s assessment of “poor lead­ership” within the ranks of FM’s management, and we believe to label it “poor” is too kind. FM personnel and our customers suffer daily with debilitating decisions made by FM administra­tors who chronically violate their own three core values of being customer-focused, operating cost-effectively and cultivating a culture of accountability.

We also share the Daily’s concern with the misuse and waste of FM budget dollars. We have informed the the Board of Regents, President Eric Kaler, Univer­sity Services Vice President Pam Wheelock and Minne­sota legislators that FM is rife with extreme adminis­trative bloat; decisions being made based on and justified with fraudulent numbers and reasoning; and endless examples of questionable expenditures while not re­ceiving value back for mon­ey being spent. We’ve done this through emails, in-per­son meetings and Daily let­ters to the editor (“Open let­ter to V.P. Wheelock,” Aug. 8, 2012, and “Don’t overlook FM layers and dollars,” April 29, 2013).The Daily editorial high­lights two instances from the KMSP report: First, FM’s “food budget” represents a small fraction of gratuitous spending by FM. An exam­ple of much more excessive spending was investigated in an earlier KMSP report on the implementation of team cleaning: $156,000 was spent on a needless “training cen­ter” — a fake bathroom and office — which FM Asso­ciate Vice President Mike Berthelsen said was nec­essary so as not to disturb students, but this space is lo­cated in a non-student, FM-controlled building — with actual bathrooms and of­fices — off campus. Also, at least $318,000 was spent in costs related to the training space and installing team cleaning.

Second, in the KMSP video, Wheelock finds out 10 people were planning to attend a Las Vegas con­ference. She states, “That sounds like about 1 percent of our organization in Fa­cilities Management” and apparently concluded that may be too many and cut the number who could go back to seven. The totality of FM employees is more than 1,000, but the only FM per­sonnel who would even be considered to attend such an event is custodial man­agement staff, totaling 50. Wheelock cut the percent­age of “eligible” FM folks flying to Las Vegas from 20 percent to 14 percent. Unfortunately, examples of waste and abuse of FM bud­get dollars are chronic and confounding.

The Daily editorial in­cludes remarks from the report by Wheelock that seemingly connect tuition costs with “custodial cuts” and “cleaning buildings less often.” Between fiscal year 2006 and fiscal year 2012, FM’s budget was reduced 23 percent while tuition was rising. Custodial staff decreased from 477 to 425 by 2011, but only through attrition — no layoffs. Since 2011, custodial staff has been growing continuously every year while under­graduate tuition was not increased this fiscal year. Regarding less cleaning, the only significant change in many years was reducing daily office and laboratory trashing to once and three times per week, respective­ly, starting in 2009 — again while tuition was rising. Staffing levels and the quan­tity and quality of custodial work has everything to do with fraudulent, expensive “team cleaning” introduced by duplicitous FM leader­ship, not tuition rates.

Kaler has set a goal of continuing to save millions in administrative costs for years to come in order to, in part, keep tuition frozen or keep increases to a mini­mum. We join him in that effort and thank the Daily for bringing attention to this critically important issue.