Friday, January 20, 2012

City Council's New Organization Structure

The City Council has been working on their organization structure since they fired Debra Owen back in September 2011. The council formed an ad hoc committee in November 2011 to decide what they wanted their city clerk position to be. I wrote two blogs on the subject in September and November 2011 suggesting that maybe it was time to finally create two very distinct positions.

Vice Chair Erpenbach presented the new organization structure under the emergency clause of ordinance 2-15  at the Tuesday, January 17, 2012 council meeting. The current organization reflected Owen's old position of City Clerk/Chief of Council Operations and 3 Assistant City Clerks. The new organization will have a new position titled Legislative and Operations Manager, a City Clerk position, and 2 Assistant City Clerks.

The rationale for creating two positions from Owen's position at the time of her firing was that the City Clerk serves the entire city and they wanted it to be a neutral position, an apolitical position. The new position titled Legislative and Operations Manager would specifically serve the 8 councilors. Councilors need someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to do their research, set up meetings and run the day to day operations of the council office.

Having two separate and distinct positions is not a brand new idea. It was being discussed as an option back when I was still working for the city. If you talk to Owen, she was also working on the concept. It is not a new idea but it is a good idea, in my opinion, and it is finally being adopted. How it was adopted is another story (see January 19th blog). Maybe now, the council can keep the mayor out of their day-to-day council business and the City Clerk position will truly be a neutral administrative position serving both the council and the mayor's administration. Too bad it wasn't done when Owen was still there. She might not have lost her job to political circumstances.

Councilor Erpenbach's committee also created another council committee called Operations Committee made up of the Council Chair, Vice Chair, immediate past Chair and another councilor approved by the city council. This committee will oversee these positions and incumbents and the day to day operations of the council office. As a part-time council, this will continue to be a challenge especially since by charter the council is only supposed to be a part-time, policy making and legislative body.

Erpenbach said the two positions would be posted and applications would be taken from both inside and outside city government. The mayor congratulated Erpenbach on not adding to their headcount. An interesting comment considering there are currently 3 Assistant City Clerk incumbents. Either one of those 3 is predisposed to getting promoted to the appointive City Clerk position or one of them is going to be fired or laid off since the new organization only allows for 2 Assistant City Clerks.

Rumor has it that the mayor is working on changing ordinance language in Chapter 30 pertaining to personnel rules and regulations related to appointive officials and employees. Current ordinance language specifically allows appointed officials who have previous civil service to "bump back" if they become unappointed by a mayor and/or city council. Of course, this language amendment would require a majority vote of the city council.

Why any of these civil service assistant clerks would take the city clerk position with the prospect of losing the ability to bump back when they lose favor with the mayor or the council is beyond me. All they have to do is look at the "special" way the mayor and city council chose to treat Debra Owen. Then ask yourself why you would leave civil service to work for this group. Every day is a wing and a prayer regarding job security.


  1. the notion the "restructuring" is somehow so urgent, it requires a "walk in" addition to the agenda, is laughable, considering the council has made it clear they don't like last minute "additions."

    the public should get more time to study/ponder and hopefully be able to comment/ask questions about it.

    what does the charter say about the council being able to hire their own employees, beyond the city clerk position???

    if this change goes forward, will the new position be able to handle such things as budget analysis?

    the council, and you, have been critical of the pace and manner in which the charter revision commission has operated.....this feels very similar.

    i do appreciate the council has determined the need for separate clerk/legal, and council staffing positions. the style and procedure they are using seems in conflict with existing city law and practice....who is going to charge them with violating the intent of their own law?


  2. Just where is the city attorney in all this mess? Doesn't appear he is doing his job at all.

  3. The city will only be able to attract directors who change cities every 4 years when a new Mayor comes into office. It will hurt continuity of programs and remove a lot of qualified people from the candidate pool.

    The only other people who would accept positions would be people at their pension eligibility who can walk away at the first temper tantrum they have to endure.

    This doesn't surprise me at all coming from a guy who has no respect for city employees, none of them know anything in Huether's mind since they don't have "business" experience.

    Maybe the change will be good if it goes through - the next Mayor can clean house of all the incompetent yes-men Mayor Huether appointed.

    1. I have worked for the City since the inception of the charter and the current mayor/council format.

      What Huether has proven is we need to switch to a City Manager/council form of government with a professional city manager that reports to the council and hires directors not appoints them.

  4. Anon @ 1:37 pm. If anyone would've inquired of Fiddle-Faddles less than agreeable departure from the May-Johnson firm and his long-demonstrated inabilities and lack of work ethic there and also his willingness to avoid any conntroversy or strong legal positions, this really should be no surprise. He had no real job prospect when he was Many Mistake Mike's second choice for this position and he is not going to say no to Mistaken Mike or the counciil so long as he keeps getting that nice government paycheck. If you want too know where the city attorney is at on these tougher questions, just look around in that office for the person with their head in the sand and their tail between their legs. Once again u can see that second choice equals second rate.