Monday, March 24, 2008

Are "Acting" Limits Passe?

A few years ago, in one of the Queen City’s classic tugs of war over “acting” appointments of top officials, the City Council approved a 90-day limit on how long a mayoral appointee could serve without council confirmation.

It comes to mind now that the current mayor has named Public Affairs & Safety Director Martin Hellwig as the city’s first civilian police director, replacing the police chief. As Dan Damon points out, the ordinance abolishing the chief’s post has not actually taken effect, for one thing. The other thing is that the ordinance establishing the office of police director allows for an interim appointment of up to one year.

It is also more than 90 days since A. Raiford Daniels vacated the post of director of Administration and Finance, Health and Social Services. City Administrator Marc Dashield is serving as acting department head in addition to being in charge of day-to-day operations of the city. That burden was cited as part of the reason for the delay in passage of the 2008 fiscal year budget.

The point of having separate individuals carrying out major functions is that it contributes toward the checks and balances of government. If all we wanted was a czar or Dear Leader, we wouldn’t need the branches of government nor the structure outlined in the city’s special charter.

The past furor over acting appointments came about when the governing body perceived the mayor’s actions as a ploy to sidestep the “advice and consent” process by which the council has a say in confirming or rejecting mayoral nominees for top posts. There is no such outcry now, but any longtime observer of the city might ask, what has changed? Is it that the new folks don’t know about the time limit or that nobody cares any more?

The net effect is that we have two top officials in dual roles where they essentially report to themselves. The city administrator/department head situation is a lot of work for one person, especially because that department has the most divisions to supervise. The department head/civilian police director combination, at the very least, diminishes objectivity about how the new entity is working out.

Nobody wants to see a return to the days when the mayor and council were always at loggerheads, but are citizens willing to see the governing body pass on enforcing checks and balances? It’s something to think about.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears to me that the reason why the mayor and council are at lggerheads is simple - The mayor's agenda is to do Jerry Green's bidding regardless if it helps the city or not. The council wants to see Plainfield grow and prosper, and is not necessarily in Jerry Green's pocket.

If the mayor truly cared about the city, she would put 2 more policmen on the street to reduce the crime (wasn't that her platform?), and she would get a backbone and start finding out who can really help get this city back on its feet.

3:59 PM  

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