Letter sent today to Mayor Art Ward by former Mayor William Stortz:
September 30, 2008
Dear Mayor Ward,
As you recall, over the years, I have supported the idea of a Town Manager for the City of Bristol. However, the current proposal seems like a diluted version of the concept of a Town Manger and raises some questions in my mind, and probably many others. Since it will be on the ballot this November, I am hoping that you can clear up or otherwise address some of my concerns.
First, I do believe that no wording changes can be made to the issue on the ballot prior to the November election, for logistical reasons as well as because the wording submitted is the wording that the petition was based on. Also, if it does pass and some changes are appropriate for whatever the reason, those changes will require another Charter Revision Commission and subsequent placing on the next ballot for the people to vote on. Therefore the city will have to function with the change as approved, even if it has some defects. While I believe I am correct, could both of those issues be responded to?
Second, I am not aware that a salary has been set for the COO position. I would ask that you send that issue to the salary committee and have them respond prior to the election so that the people can have some idea as to what the position will be costing the taxpayer. Since it will be your administration that probably fills this position, it will be your salary committee that sets the salary. If the proposal passes, the salary range will have to be determined prior to advertising, so determining and publicizing it now is expediting the process just slightly, but also giving the voter a better base on which to judge.
At the same time, the question of the Mayor’s salary should be addressed. Again, if the proposal passes, the Mayor’s duties will be significantly affected. Will that justify a change (reduction) in the Mayor’s salary? I know that the salaries of elected officials cannot be changed during their term of office, so any change would be effective after the next election, but again, the people should know this before they vote on the proposal. Also, that would be a concern as individuals make a decision relative to their running for office.
In the same area, I would like to see a tentative budget prepared for this new office. Again, while it will be an estimate, it is likely that a budget will have to be submitted to the Board of Finance for the normal budget process, and that budget process will probably start way before the new person is on board. An estimate is better than nothing for BOF purposes, and again will provide the voter with a clearer picture of the financial impact.
I have many other areas of concern, but I will submit just one of them at this time. I do want to research the others before I raise additional questions.
The basic question revolves around the reporting/responsible to process. This involves any Department Head that “works” for a Board: I will basically use the Police Chief and Police Board in my example, although the concept would seem to apply to other Department Heads also.
The proposed Charter change says (section 62 (b) (1), in part, the COO shall be responsible to exercise general supervision over, the Chief of Police. It also says (6) provide leadership and direction .. to develop and implement the City budget….
The current Charter, Sec 45 (a) says.. The Police Department shall be under the general supervision of the board of police commissioners. Sec. 45 (f) says in part… Said Board of Police Commissioners, subject to the approval of the City Council, shall make rules and regulations for the government of the Police Department….
Similar language exists for the Fire Department.
Park Department, a somewhat different issue: Sec 34 (f).. Said Board shall have exclusive power to make rules and bylaws for the ordinary transaction of business….
Library: Sec 38 (b) Said Board shall have exclusive control of all the properties of said Library…. If they want something done, whom does the Library Director listen to?
It also seems like Sec 62 (b) (10) gives the Council additional powers, unless any direction they provide is limited to power given them by Charter. Currently they do not appear to have any operational authority.
Mayor, there may be language somewhere in the current Charter, or in the proposed changes that addresses these seeming inconsistencies. If so, I would appreciate knowing where. But you know, and I know, that if there is some vagueness, sooner or later it will become an issue, between the COO, the Mayor, the various Boards, the Staff. This could lead to bargaining unit problems or management problems. It could put employees in the middle, which wouldn’t be fair, or it could create conflicts between the various parties involved. This could be even more of an issue where boards are involved and the mayor chairs the board.
If I am overly concerned, ore if the problem has been or is addressed, let me know if you will.. If I am anywhere near right, then this should be addressed so as to not put the city in the middle.
Even if my concerns relative to the reporting structure have been or are addressed, I would still like a clearer picture of the salaries involved, and the anticipated budget. I am confident that the voters would like to know that too.
William T. Stortz
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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