Don’t overlook Facilities Management layers and dollars

Regarding last week’s articles on the University of Minnesota’s bloat, costs and legislative oversight, a letter was sent eight weeks ago by three coworkers and me to Sens. Terri Bonoff and Thomas Bakk, University President Eric Kaler, Board of Regents Chair Linda Cohen, University Services Vice President Pamela Wheelock and Sibson Consulting. The letter detailed Facilities Management’s flow chart of the 25 “upper management” personnel who “administer” the 26 “front-line” supervisory staff for the University’s custodians, mechanics and tradespeople. Whatever methodology Sibson used for their analysis of four department’s layers and spans, all I know is the reality does have potential to meet any common sense definition of bloat and questionable cost effectiveness. This reality involves 26 custodial, facilities and maintenance supervisors reporting to 15 team managers and one facilities manager (earned $1,656,908.80 in the 2011-12 fiscal year) who in turn reports to six associate directors (earned $850,266.88, and this job did not exist before January 2008), who in turn report to three district directors (earned $510,550.56), who in turn report to Facilities Management Associate Vice President Mike Berthelsen (earned $236,912) and his Chief Administrative Officer Bradley Hoff (earned $139,068.80).

The aforementioned letter also stated that Facilities Management has plans to expand from one to three training coordinators, the recently resigned coordinator earning $93,666.51 in 2011. Also, Facilities Management has its own safety division with three full-time employees earning a total of $292,568.53.

In a letter to the editor, published Aug. 8, 2012, in the Minnesota Daily, I wrote that Berthelsen employed a half-truth beginning in 2011 to falsely imply that the custodial workforce suddenly dropped that year from literally 477 full-time employees to 425 full-time employees, allegedly saving $3.1 million annually and necessitating the drastic campus-wide change to so-called “team cleaning.” According to University Services Human Resources, there were more than 470 custodians in summer 2009 and by July 17, 2011, there were 418.8 custodians; currently that number is about 450 custodians. This $3.1 million figure has been repeated endlessly since then, including in Sibson’s report to Kaler and subsequently in his report to the Legislature on March 12 — listed on page 13 as an “Operational Excellence success story” and falsely implying that it is due to the team cleaning system. In my letter, I repeated what I had already communicated to Kaler — many of us both inside and outside Facilities Management believe a thorough external audit of the department is long overdue. With Huron Consulting’s continued analysis of administrative bloat and cost and so many people voicing their concerns for the same, Facilities Management administration ought to be seriously examined by all those within the University responsible for providing this oversight and by all those throughout the University who care about what value — or not — the University community and taxpayers are receiving for the dollars being spent.