Mayor Kelly Kirschner took his turn before the Charter Review Committee Sept. 14 to oppose changes to the structure of the city manager’s office.
“Another elected official said there should be less activism by commissioners,” he said. “I disagree with that.”
The other elected official to whom he was referring is Commissioner Terry Turner, who spoke before the Charter Review Committee last month.
Turner suggested a change to the city’s charter, essentially its constitution, which would put more control in the city manager’s office and more explicitly delineate the roles of commissioners as policy makers and the city manager as chief executive.
City Manager Robert Bartolotta also weighed in on the issue at the Sept. 14 meeting, saying he felt Turner’s proposal was unnecessary.
The shift calls for the city attorney and city auditor and clerk to be appointed and managed by the city manager. The change would eliminate their status as charter officials and eliminate their roles as checks and balances to the city manager.
“We already have a city manager with a significant amount of power,” Kirschner said prior to the meeting. “For the city attorney and auditor, it’s critical those functions remain independent.”
Turner also suggested making it more difficult to fire the city manager. Currently, it takes a simple majority in the commission at one meeting to dismiss a city manager. He would like that changed to a supermajority at one meeting or a simple majority at two consecutive meetings.
“That eliminates a heat-of-the-moment vote,” Turner previously said. “When you’re dealing with a personnel matter, it’s better to avoid the heat-of-the-moment.”
But Bartolotta didn’t like that change. He believes that three votes for termination are fine.
“The commission should be able to get rid of me at any time,” he said. “The day I lose the confidence of three commissioners, I should leave.”
Turner’s proposal also calls for a 10-year term limit for the city manager, unless extended by a unanimous commission vote.
The proposed charter change would also expand the prohibition against commissioners giving direct orders to city employees. Turner believes commissioners should not give orders to any staff member.
Bartolotta would rather allow commissioners to be able to make a request of city employees on minor issues, the way any citizen may do. The example he gave is if a commissioner sees a tree branch down.
Under Turner’s strict proposal, the commissioner would have to call the city manager to inform him of the downed branch, and the city manager would have to call a department director and the department director would instruct an employee to remove it.
Bartolotta said regarding problems such as that, he’d rather have the commissioner be able to call a supervisor directly to take care of the issue.
As for the current practice of commissioners appointing themselves mayor each year, Turner calls it “ego-driven” and wants it eliminated.
A better system, he said, would be a directly elected mayor with watered-down powers.
Under his proposal, the charter would specifically state that the mayor has no executive powers and that the mayor “should not encroach on the executive responsibilities of the (city) manager.”
The Charter Review Committee will debate the proposed changes at a future meeting.