Commentary: A Wynn-Wynn Situation
In talks and protests since last fall, parents and coaches have suggested that Recreation Superintendent Dave Wynn's style of management is part of the problem or maybe is the problem. There was supposed to have been a sitdown last fall with Wynn and the administration to get to the bottom of the issues, but on May 3, Queen City players and advocates packed City Hall Library and had the ears of the governing body for two hours.
The clash is taking up many hours out of the lives of City Administrator Bibi Taylor and Public Works & Urban Development Director David Brown II, as well as the seven council members and the mayor. Calls are being fielded at all hours, from what Taylor said Monday, and Public Works Superintendent John Louise is being dragged into it as well.
When Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs was first elected in 2006, she said publicly there was not enough for children to do in Plainfield. Wynn correctly pointed out the city's huge roster of athletic programs and events for children and before long, the mayor was one of Wynn's most staunch supporters. Even when council members later sought to cut back on public events as the economy worsened, Wynn dodged the fiscal bullet. But some events took on political overtones, such as the Music in the Plaza series that featured the mayor's re-election campaign image on all its promotional materials.
The situation escalated Monday with the council proposing passage of two ordinances aimed at defusing the problem by changing who would be responsible for field access.The mayor was absent, but Corporation Counsel Dan Williamson, the most highly paid city employee, read off a series of remarks from the mayor, including one in which she threatened legal action if the council passed the ordinances.
"I am very sorry to hear that," Council President Annie McWilliams said, but noted seven days had elapsed without the administration naming a requested "point person" to replace Wynn in the current dispute.
Both measures failed, with McWilliams, Adrian Mapp and Rashid Burney voting "yes" and Linda Carter, Bridget Rivers and William Reid voting "no." Cory Storch was absent.
Then there was the notion that a newly-minted Recreation Committee, advisory in nature, should be made into full-blown commission with broader powers. Taylor objected, saying that would produce another budget line item with no duties assigned.
Responding to the mayor's suggestion of possible legal action against the council, Mapp noted budget decisions are coming up and said the "next level" might be to remove salaries from the Recreation Division.
Despite the heated nature of the controversy, Taylor described it at one point like this: "When you start a new program and mesh it with the old, you will have hiccups."
Apparently in this case, you will also have an ever-expanding sphere of well-compensated officials trying to deal with what time the ballfield lights should go out and why bases are being stored in the ladies' bathroom.
It is hard to conceive of any other organization where a middle manager can be at the center of a months'-long controversy without suffering any consequences. Parents and coaches are upset, children are perplexed, government officials are being drawn in when they have plenty of other things to deal with in these still precarious times.
Two commenters at the end of the meeting summed up their feelings, which no doubt many Plainfielders share.
Dwayne Wilkins of the new Recreation Committee said of seeing the children at the May 3 meeting, "I struggle with that."
Their plight "should not have to go to the highest levels of government," he said.
Lamar Mackson, who grew up in the city in what he described as "simpler times," said he was "hurt and distraught by what we're doing here."
"When you look at the headlines, there is nothing but distress coming from Plainfield," he said.
Mackson said he wants to see things that put Plainfield in a better light.
He said of the controversy, "It's just unconscionable."