Ron Bolin — Letter to the Daily News March 30 ,2010

Walter Cordery (Council’s duty to review staff) makes several good points about recent events at City Hall.  I believe, however, that he has overlooked a basic issue which led to the “Confusion and lack of trust between politicians, city staff” discussed earlier by Derek Spalding.

It has been said that Council has only one employee, the City Manager and that all other city employees are under the control of the City Manager.  This argument has been used to marginalize Council’s authority in dealing with city hall.  Yet in the Community Charter, it is stated as one of the responsibilities of the mayor (116(d)) “to provide, on behalf of the council, general direction to municipal officers respecting implementation of municipal policies, programs and other directions of the council…”  The differences between these interpretations are not trivial.

The story of Jerry Berry’s leaving/termination as well as his apparent unwillingness to undergo criticism, questions or direction regarding his regime seems to be embedded in the ambiguous nature of the relationship between a Council and senior city staff.  While it was no doubt congenial when the relationship seemed to be well defined in the city manager’s favour in previous laissez faire Councils, it is the mark of a professional to either manage new circumstances or to leave.  Mr. Berry chose the latter.  And he was very handsomely rewarded for his decision.

This problem has now fallen to our new city manager and new council.  Given time and consideration on both sides for the problems of the other, a new understanding of the nature of their respective rolls will arise, perhaps one more balanced in its approach to city operations, and we will all be the better for it.  In the meantime those used to the previous regime, whether on Staff or on Council, need to adjust to new circumstances.

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