Mill Creek Beacon - Your Hometown News Source

Damned lies or statistics?


Last updated 11/20/2016 at Noon

Dear Sirs,

Mark Twain popularized the phrase, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” A recent Beacon article by Paul Shipley (sic) provides a perfect example of that phrase. Mr. Shipley’s tortured use of numbers in the article paint a picture that most city staff are unhappy. His numbers are bogus.

The article begins with the fact that 14 people, out of 70, have left the city staff in the last 18 months. The article relies on a survey conducted by the AFSCME union, which represents only 26 employees. Of those 26 people, only 75% of them “anonymously filled out the survey,” which means that the opinions of 19 people were the basis of the article. That is only 19 people out of 70, or 28% of city staff.

The biggest lie in the article is: “80% of current employees report ‘low or horrible’ morale working at city hall.” The actual number is 22%, because it is not 80% of “current employees,” it is 80% of the 19 people who completed the survey, which is only 15 people.

Similarly, instead of 30% of people looking for new jobs, it’s 8% or 6 people. Instead of 65% “seeing/or being the victim of bullying,” it is 18% or 12 people.

Furthermore, the article places blame for the departures on City Manager Rebecca Polizzoto. The basis for this assertion? “Some citizens who have been longtime friends” of former employees.

Based on strikingly similar “reports” on social media, “some citizens” are the usual band of former City Council people who were swept out of office three years ago, Lynn Sordel, Kathy Nielsen, and Mary Kay Voss. These three have continuously criticized the council, the mayor, and the city manager ever since they lost the election.

It is time for these people to realize they are not in office anymore, and the people of Mill Creek have spoken loud and clear – we don’t want the city run in the same old way.

Finally, buried in the article is the fact that 6 of the 14 employees who left the city in the last 18 months were planned retirements and that two others were for personal or professional opportunities. That means only 6 employees have left in the last 18 months for reasons other than retirement or better opportunity. Six people leaving the city staff out of 70 can also be expressed as 91% retention!

Daniel Mills

15-year resident of Mill Creek

Planning Commissioner

Note: Mr. Mills (who incorrectly named me as Paul Shipley in his letter) proved his own lies and statistics quote by misstating what my article said, then twisting statistics in an effort to fortify his argument.

The article clearly stated that the survey’s findings were based on the answers provided by 75 percent of AFSCME members who took the survey, not 75 percent of all city employees.

Thus, 80 percent of the survey respondents reported “low or horrible morale,” and 30 percent of them are looking for new jobs.

Mr. Mills cannot then extrapolate that employees who weren’t surveyed by the union aren’t looking for new jobs or are happy at City Hall. They may or may not be happy or seeking new employment, but they weren’t part of the survey and therefore can’t be included in Mr. Mill’s calculations. At least, Mark Twain wouldn’t think so.

– Paul Archipley


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