Mayor Murphy explains his decision
For the second time in his first few months on the job, Mayor Patrick Murphy has sparked a political firestorm in some quarters of the city for a personnel decision.
His latest move raising eyebrows and causing anger was his dismissal of 13-year mayor’s aide Diane Bujnowski last Friday without notice to her the move was coming.
In fact, Bujnowski, who was serving her seventh straight mayor and widely liked and respected, says she was told on three occasions by Murphy that he planned to stick with her.
Murphy also told The Sun in late January he foresaw no change of the guard with his assistant.
In an interview with The Sun Monday morning, Murphy admitted he did tell Bujnowski prior to his securing votes to become mayor and soon afterward he had no plans to get rid of her.
“I did want to give Diane a chance to work as she has for several other mayors,” Murphy said.
But Murphy said it took awhile for him to figure out “how the office functions and what is required for it to function better.”
Specifically, Murphy wants to expand the Mayor Office’s focus on policy initiatives to include evaluating the effectiveness of certain city ordinances already in place and finding ways to make sure the public better understands city policies.
He promised he will be rolling out some of these ideas, including an increased social media presence for his office, in the coming weeks.
Murphy also wants to adopt a set of performance measures for the Mayor’s Office, much like those put in place in recent years for other city departments.
The mayor said he needed some one other than Bujnowski to help him carry out his goals.
Enter Greg Page, a 31-year-old an Army National Captain, with degrees from Stanford and Harvard.
“There is an opportunity in this very short period of time to expand the notion of what is possible out of this office,” Murphy said.
In recent years, the mayor’s aide has been expected to handle constituent services, keep the mayor’s schedule and keep other councilors informed of events and issues of interest to them.
Asked if Bujnowski was given the chance to expand her responsibilities, Murphy said she was, but did not go into detail.
“Diane is very good at certain things,” Murphy said. “I think she will do well in whatever she does next.”
Some have speculated City Manager Bernie Lynch played a role in Murphy’s decision to go with a new aide. Murphy denied that, saying the decision was solely his.
Page and Murphy met at a Hamilton Canal visioning session in 2009 and have kept in touch and met up at civic engagement events in the years since. Page said he is excited about carrying out Murphy’s goals for the office, including harnessing the power of social media for civic engagement.
Several former mayors Bujnowski worked under said Monday they were surprised by Murphy’s decision and had nothing but praise for their former employee. However, they were also were quick to note it is the mayor’s prerogative to decide who fills the assistant’s position. Prior to Bujnowski’s run, there was a lot of of turnover with the position.
Former Mayor James Milinazzo said he had lunch with Bujnowski after Murphy became mayor and his former aide seemed thrilled about working for Murphy.
“She seemed perfectly at ease with the transition,” Milinazzo said. “The move came as a surprise.”
Milinazzo said he found Bujnowski to be a “very good and very loyal employee.”
State Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who first brought Bujnowski into the Mayor’s Office and was thrilled with her work, said she had no inkling Murphy planned to make a change.
She said the mayor could have considered giving Bujnowski a heads-up the change was coming.
“You want to be as fair as possible, so if they are given notice, they are given the chance to look around,” Donoghue said. “It does not seem like that happened.”
Councilor and former Mayor Bill Martin said Murphy briefed him after Bujnowski was relieved of her duties and he understands the mayor’s desire to expand the office’s scope.
“The mayor is looking for a different skill set,” Martin said. “I would not be critical of the mayor for picking someone he wants.”
Former Mayors Rita Mercier and Edward “Bud” Caulfield had previously told The Sun they were angry with the way Bujnowski’s dismissal was handled.
Murphy has reversed his previous personnel move that generated questions about his decision making.
In January, he angered some members of the Police Department by naming Councilor Vesna Nuon of the chair public-safety subcommittee. Nuon had previously filed a federal lawsuit against the city alleging a false arrest and settled with the city for $50,000.
Earlier this year, Nuon stepped down from his post as public-safety chair following outcry about the move, but remained on the committee.
Thanks to City Hall Reporter Lyle Moran for the first Column Blog post of the week. Happy spring.
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