Wednesday, July 05, 2006

McGee Overdue As Acting Director

For more than 90 days, City Administrator Carlton McGee has been in charge of day-to-day operations while also temporarily heading the largest of three city departments, but officials said Monday (July 3, 2006) they saw no problem with the dual roles.

The city has a 90-day limit on acting terms.

Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs sought City Council confirmation for the city administrator and two department heads in March, just before they reached the limit. All top administrators had been named in acting capacity Jan. 1. Former city administrator Norton Bonaparte stayed on in the new administration as acting director of Administration & Finance. But he left the city in March to become city manager of Topeka, Kans. and McGee took over Bonaparte’s duties.

It is unclear whether the council was ever formally notified of the additional acting term for McGee. But he can’t be confirmed in the role because he is already confirmed as city administrator, so he must vacate the post under the term-limit rule.

“It‘s a technicality, but there‘s no harm done either way,” City Council President Ray Blanco said.

Assemblyman Jerry Green, the mayor‘s mentor, said he didn‘t think it was a problem, noting the arrangement was not costing the city any money. City administrators have served as acting department heads in the past and only receive the higher of the two salaries while doing so.

Green said the administration is looking for someone with “multiple talents“ in finance and administration to head the department.

“We have expanded the search outside the city,“ he said.

Green said the administration was hoping to have someone on board within 60 days.

The City Council put limits on acting terms during the administration of former Mayor Albert T. McWilliams, who let some cabinet members stay on for months without council confirmation. The issue was that indefinite acting terms took away the council’s powers of advice and consent to the mayor’s choices. The city’s special charter states, “Each department shall be headed by a director, who shall be appointed by the Mayor with advice and consent of the council.“

The council first allowed two 60-day terms, but later cut it back to one 90-day term before a confirmation vote.

Administration & Finance is one of three departments mandated by the city’s special charter. Its divisions include purchasing, personnel, comptroller, municipal court, tax assessor, tax collector, health, social services, the Project Alert substance abuse program and the Senior Citizens Center. The other departments are Public Affairs & Safety, covering police and fire operations, and Public Works & Urban Development, which includes public works, recreation, inspections, engineering and economic development.

On March 20, Robinson-Briggs won City Council confirmation of McGee as city administrator, Martin Hellwig as director of Public Affairs & Safety and Jennifer Wenson Maier as director of Public Works & Urban Development for four-year terms concurrent with her own. The council also agreed to waive residency requirements for all three.

--Bernice Paglia


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