Rachel DePompa – bio | email
For those of you who just got my slight He-Man reference in the title… Kudos! 🙂 (Sorry, child of the 80’s here!)
So, who has the power to do what at City Hall? Simple enough question, but the answer varies depending on who you ask. It’s still hard NOT to forget the power struggle we saw nearly every day at City Hall during the Doug Wilder Administration. But the question has arisen again, even when everyone is “just getting along.”
Shortly after the Jones’ Administration announced its first major internal shake-up , I got a few calls from people telling me the move was a violation of city’s charter. And on the surface, they appear to be correct. According to sec. 4.02 of the charter. Only the City Council has the power to create, alter or abolish departments.
Sec. 5.03 of the charter also says the Chief Administrative Officer has the power to make temporary transfers of personnel between departments.
The changes to the Departments of Community Development and Economic Development were announced last week. People were shuffled and the deal was done, without ever getting approval from the council. As some council members put it to me: It’s a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. People appear to be hung up on “the process.”
The Mayor’s Press secretary says, the CAO made the moves after first consulting with the City Attorney. She also said he’s already told council he plans to submit papers this budget cycle to “officially” seek approval. But as some council members point out….. the changes will have already been in place for months before the council ever has a chance to sign off on it. Council member Bruce Tyler has asked the City Attorney to render an official opinion. Tyler and Councilman Charles Samuels would both like papers introduced to council sooner rather than later. They city has indicated MORE changes are coming and that it wants to wait until they are all complete.
Bruce Tyler says, “I think the Mayor’s trying to do the right thing but we’ve got a little bit of a miss step here and we need to get the thing lined back up and put in the proper order.” I’ve consulted with a few members of the Charter Commission (a group put together to clarify the current charter) and they said it appears to be a clear violation of the charter. The City Attorney, however, still has to officially weigh in. And, as the Mayor’s Press Secretary, Tammy Hawley aptly points out, “The intent [of the changes] is to improve services and to generate an efficient operating government.” By all accounts, the move itself is not under the microscope… just the process.
The Charter Commission has wrapped up its meetings and has submitted a list of recommendations for changes to the charter. Those changes will be reviewed jointly by the Mayor and City Council. The two want to present a united front to the General Assembly. State lawmakers have the ultimate say to any proposed changes to the city’s charter.