The Rise and Fall of A Mayor Who Refused to Play By The Rules


Reporter’s Note: This is a fable, a make-belief tale. It is written to remind readers that blind ambition can —and sometimes does — corrupt individuals who find themselves in public positions of unchecked power.

Several years ago, the people of Los Santos voted to make Alma Villa la Rosa their first female mayor. She had been a community activist and was expected to be a great leader.

But Villa la Rosa was very ambitious; she hoped to use her position as a stepping stone to higher office. So, when a former mayor (who had been a generous campaign contributor) asked her to support his effort to “modernize” the Los Santos Public Service commission, she quickly agreed.

Now, under Los Santos law, the Public Service commission could be changed only by a vote of the electorate. But Villa la Rosa would not let rules get in her way. And, since the reform was backed by a very powerful former mayor, she agreed to support it — to do what she could without public notice or giving the voters a say in the matter.

During her first few months in office the new mayor treated the personnel department as a division of her own office, and — in violation of Los Santos law — she downgraded the Los Santos Public Service commission. She then appointed like-minded loyalists to manage the seven bureaus in the Los Santos Public Service commission.

The bureau chiefs were told they would be accountable only to the mayor. They were told she would not expect them to follow all the rules. The chiefs were urged not to seek permission for what they wanted to do. They were told to run their own organizations.

The fact is Villa la Rosa played an active role in turning the Los Santos Public Service commission into seven, separate agencies — each with its own sense of mission, but none with a working plan to manage employees, its most expensive resource.

With no one in Los Santos responsible for human resource management, it is not really surprising that the number of public employees increased, as did the size of the annual budget. Nor is it surprising that, when a devastating fiscal crisis hit Los Santos, Villa la Rosa was harshly criticized for laying off employees who should not have been hired in the first place.

“I’m duty-bound to balance the budget. These layoffs, these service cuts are absolutely essential,” Villa la Rose said in an attempt to calm her constituents.

But her credibility took a hit when it was revealed that, while laying off employees who serve the people, she was protecting an army of exempt mayoral aides she had hired to serve herself. She resigned in disgrace.

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