Credibility Lost

In addition to replacing the Arborist Division Manager and naming a new director for the Bureau of Buildings -- which oversees the Arborist Division -- City COO, Peter Aman, informed us in December 2010 that the City was completing its Legal Department investigation of the performance of several Arborist Division employees "within 45 days or so".  The investigation was completed and released to us in March 2011.  Disappointingly, it turned out not to be an investigation at all, but mere conversations held with the very people whose veracity was in question.  The city arborists who were supposed to be investigated were instead asked to provide their side of the story.  No external people who may have provided contradictory evidence were interviewed.  No fact checking occurred to verify the accuracy of the city arborists' statements.  Embarrassingly, The Tree Next Door was quickly able to prove that the former manager of the Arborist Division had lied during his conversation with the city lawyers to explain why he had failed to enforce the Standards of Practice during his tenure as manager.  Aman has yet to provide any explanation as to why this manager lied and why no disciplinary action has been taken, leading us to conclude that any investigation authorized by Aman is apt to be riddled with falsehoods.

Below is the email that Aman sent us in December.

From: "Aman, Peter T." < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2010 12:39:32 -0500

Mr. Schlegman, (and please copy to the TTND website)

Thank you for your note and analysis, as well as your continued passion on this subject-we are eager to be held accountable.  As I have said before, this administration IS fully committed to the protection of trees as outlined in the various code sections, and more generally beyond that we are very supportive of protecting the tree canopy, parks, and other green space throughout the city of Atlanta.  So, your assumption that somehow the administration wants poor performance is very much mistaken.

We do have, however, many priorities we need to work on simultaneously (e.g., crime prevention and response, EMS response times, critical infrastructure like bridges, cost control, and many others) as well as limited resources caused by years of budget cuts.  The unfortunate fact is that many things do not happen as fast as you or I would like.  Additionally, we do have an obligation to both taxpayers and employees to fully investigate matters relative to both personnel and process deficiencies, and are in the concluding stages of some of that work.  All of this, I am sure you will point out, is mere words of course.  You should know however that several changes are in process now-specifically:

Changes in personnel:
1)     We have replaced the Director of the Bureau of Buildings (Mr. Caldwell's supervisor) with a highly experienced and capable NEW director, Don Rosenthal, who has been charged with, among other things, improving operations in the arborist division.

2)     We are replacing the Manager of the Arborist Division and are commencing a search, this week in fact, for a new Manager.  Mr. Caldwell will be moving to a new position which focuses on the biology of tree evaluation and preservation within the Arborist group and will be leading additional training for the entire group on these subjects.

3)     Other personnel actions will be forthcoming, if appropriate, based on results of the investigation, see below.

1)     As I mentioned before, we have asked the Law Department's Investigation group to conduct a formal investigation into the performance of the Arborist Division and several of its members.  This is in process but, as I warned two months ago, will take significant time to complete-they currently believe they will be finished within 45 days or so.  As we have findings from this we will take additional actions as appropriate.

Process Improvement:
1)     New policies and procedures related to field inspections, reliable reporting practices, timely data entry, and supervisory oversight, are also currently in the developmental stages. These new standards are based upon core quality assurance principles, i.e., efficient, effective and timely service deliver to internal and external customers.  As these are being fully developed we have, of course, emphasized the basics of the process which can and are being implemented immediately.

While I apologize for not keeping you and your group better informed as to our progress, you will see that we have in fact been quite busy on this specific subject and have made significant changes with more to come.

Many thanks,


This article was cited in The Buckhead Reporter on December 17, 2010.


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