City in Crisis: Michael Taylor
(7 pages of text)
Over the past four years the chief administrative officer (CAO) had worked hard to bring change to the city of Havenstock, Canada. Prior to his arrival at Havenstock in 2004, City Hall was awash in media scandal, secrecy, and suspicion. Moreover, the work environment at City Hall was plagued with closed-channel communication and a lack of trust between employees and management. Staff morale was low and the relationship with the press was tense. The CAO had had a clear vision of what he wanted to bring to the city. At the centre of his vision was an embracing of collective accountability. He had worked hard to instill a sense of purpose, priorities, and direction. Slowly, the CAO had begun to rebuild the corporate culture into a supportive workplace.
Despite his best intentions, the improvements made over the past few years were threatened, following a Council Oversight Committee meeting. During the meeting, city employee absenteeism numbers had been questioned. Unsatisfied with the explanation of what management was doing to address the problem, a city councillor leaked the absenteeism numbers to the media. After working so hard to improve both internal and external perceptions of City Hall, the CAO now found himself and his team on the headlines of the local newspapers. In order to save his reputation, the CAO needed to prepare a presentation to go before city council and address the employee absenteeism issue head on. He knew that what he said and how he said it would be a defining moment in his career.
This case provide students with the opportunity to think critically about public relations and crisis management in municipal-level government.
Canada, Small, 2008
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