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.