Thursday, November 17, 2011

City Council's City Clerk

The City Council is trying to decide what they want their City Clerk position to be by forming ad hoc committee. The article in the Argus Leader failed to identify who was on this ad hoc committee. I suppose one could assume the working committee is made up of city staff and councilors but the point is, no one knows.

The council staff positions have always been a kind of contentious issue since the change of government. City Charter sets out a clear delineation between the mayor and the administration and the city council. Where the city clerk was clearly the official record keeper for all city government functions, the change to a City Charter set apart the mayor/administration and city council functions and placed the city clerk function clearly with the city council.

City Charter and City Ordinance still identify the City Clerk as the record keeper of all meeting and other documents and reports of the city.

City Charter, Section 2.08 City Clerk, states:

The city council shall appoint an officer of the city who shall have the title of city clerk. The city clerk shall give notice of council meetings to its members and the public, keep the minutes of its proceedings and perform such other duties as are assigned by this charter or by the council or by state law.

City Ordinance, Chapter 2, Section 2-34:
All personnel, functions, and financial responsibility for operations of the office of the city clerk are assigned to the city council.

City Ordinance, Chapter 2, Sec. 2-24. Reports and resolutions to be filed with city clerk.

All reports and resolutions of departments, authorities, boards, committees, commissions, districts, and similar organizations shall be filed with the city clerk and referenced in the minutes.

The City Clerk position has evolved over time. Although the previous city clerk incumbent, Debra Owen had a law degree, the minimum qualifications for the position does not require a law degree. In addition, the position is currently titled City Clerk/Chief of Council Operations. Out of 14 task descriptions, only a couple tasks specifically address the official recording keeping function as outlined in Charter and City Ordinance.

The City Council changes membership through the election cycle and each election cycle brought elected officials with differing views on what the city clerk function should be. The position has become much more than just a recorder keeper of city official documents. With the expanded chief of operations role, there has come controversay and contention.

The City Clerk function serves a function that affects all city government functions, not just the City Council. The administration needs to work with the City Clerks regarding the scheduling of official documents on city council agendas. All records, reports and documents produced by the adminstration must be filed with the City Clerk. City Charter and City Ordinance is clear as to the role of the City Clerk.

The "Chief of Council Operations" duties are entirely different. These functions specifically serve the inner working of the city council and is separate and distinct from the mayor's administration.

Maybe it's time to separate the two functions and create two very distinct positions. If that had been addressed before, maybe the controversay over Debra Owen could have been averted and all the drama associated with this position can finally be put to rest.


  1. Two of the Council’s major functions are public policy and appropriating funds.

    Why would the Council NOT want someone who is an expert in public policy to lead them!!??

    Especially since we have a Council that consists of:

    two marketing guys (Brown and Jamison)

    one guy who owns a motorcycle shop (Enteman)

    two insurance guys (Karsky and Rolfing)

    one newsletter publisher (Erpenbach)

    one past school board member from many
    years ago (Aguilar)

    Anderson Jr. ??


    AND, this is their tenure on the Council:

    one with nine months

    four with 19 months

    two with almost four years

    and, one with almost eight years.

    I was at the Council work session yesterday. I could not believe that they decided on Michelle Erpenbach as the Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee that will do the “heavy lifting” on a new job description for our City Clerk. She is the very person who had the biggest role in engineering Debra Owen’s demise.

  2. Why did Erpenbach want to get rid of Owen?