Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Possible Charter Changes

During its executive session today, the City Council discussed putting two charter changes on the November 4th ballot.

The first would give the council approval over mayoral appointments to deputy director positions. The second would give the council approval of all contracts over $100,000 or spanning more than 24 months. Both were presented by longtime council member Barbara Swearengen Ware.

"There has been discussion back and forth whether or not the council should approve deputy directors the same way it does directors," Ware said. "Because there will be significant changes made to the charter, I thought that this would be an ideal time to add this item."

The administration is not in favor of the change and said the council was attempting to manage the day-to-day workings of the city.

"Since there's no problem, we don't think [the change] is necessary," said CAO Keith McGee.

The average salary of a division deputy director is about $100,000. McGee said that the people directly under the deputy directors often make around $100,000, as well.

After Mayor Willie Herenton began his last term, he appointed former bodyguards and a former City Council member to deputy directorships, but Ware said her proposal wasn't in response to any specific issue.

"I don't think everything should be reactive," Ware said.

The administration was also not in favor of the contract oversight proposal.

"We believe the current process works," McGee said.

Council and Charter Commission member Janis Fullilove told her colleagues that both Herenton and former mayor Dick Hackett had appeared before the Charter Commission to oppose the very same issue.

"The city mayor signs so many contracts on a daily basis. They have to go through a process and the mayor is the last one to sign them," Fullilove said. "If the City Council became involved in the signing and approval of contracts, then we'd probably be here well into the morning."

Other council members shared her concerns, especially when McGee told them the number of contracts that would come before them would be between 2,000 and 4,000 a year. Ware said she envisioned the council's oversight of the contracts similar to the way it handles MLGW contracts.

Another option was for contracts to be reviewed not by a dollar amount or a time limit, but if they involved the lease or sale of city property.

"I don't want us to get bogged down in contracts," Ware said, "but I do think we have a fiscal responsibility. We would not be here until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. I don't know why anybody would make that kind of statement."


a curious librarian said...

Mary, regarding the Council approval of deputy director appointments, do I understand correctly that this would include appointments below the division level -- say, deputy director(s) of the public library?

If so, this could be an encouraging first step towards genuine oversight of professional positions, if indeed the Council will put some teeth into it.

marycash said...

I'm not sure ... as written right now, it's just deputy directors of each city division.

But, since it's still up for discussion, you might call your councilperson (or Barbara Swearengen Ware, the maker of the motion) and ask them to add that provision.