The Need for Reform Part 1; The City Manager

July 30, 2011 at 11:47 am 3 comments

So, you think the people who elect run the city you live in?  Think again!  In our cities, the city manager is the one who really runs the city, not the council or the mayor.  Here is what the Crystal city charter says about the city manager;

The city manager is the chief administrative officer of the city. The manager is appointed by the city council solely on the basis of training, experience, and executive and administrative qualifications. With the approval of the council, the manager may designate some properly qualified person to perform the duties of the manager during the absence or disability of the manager or while the office is vacant.

Subd. 2. The city manager is appointed for an indefinite term and may be removed at any time by an affirmative vote of a majority of the council. After having served for one year, the manager may demand written charges and a public hearing on the charges before the council prior to the date when the final removal takes effect. After the hearing, if one is demanded, the council may either reinstate the manager or make the removal final. Pending the hearing and removal, the council may suspend the manager from office and appoint an acting manager.

Section 6.02. Manager: Powers and Duties. Subdivision 1. The manager is responsible to the council for the administration of the city’s affairs. The manager has the powers and duties specified in this section.

Subd. 2. The manager must ensure that this charter, the laws and ordinances of the city and the resolutions of the city council are enforced.

Subd. 3. The manager appoints on the basis of merit and fitness, officers and employees of the city except the city attorney who is appointed and removed by the city council. The manager may remove or suspend officers and employees of the city without the consent of the council. (Amended, Ordinance No. 90-22, February 1, 1991)

Subd. 4. Except as otherwise provided by this charter or law, the manager directs departments and divisions of the city administration.

Subd. 5. The manager must attend meetings of the council. The manager may take part in discussion at council meetings but may not vote. The council may exclude the manager from a meeting at which the manager’s removal is considered

Subd. 6. The manager may recommend to the council for adoption measures deemed necessary for the welfare of the people and the efficient administration of the city’s affairs.

Subd. 7. The manager must keep the council fully advised on the financial condition and needs of the city and prepare and submit the annual budget to the council.

So the manager serves an indefinite term, enforces the law, hires the staff, recommends measures, and takes part in every discussion?  Sounds like the manager is who runs the city.  Here is what New Hope has to say;

The city manager:

  • Prepares a budget for the Council’s consideration and oversees financial operations
  • Serves as the City Council’s chief advisor and carries out the Council’s policies
  • Oversees the day-to-day operation of the city
  • Recruits, hires and supervises city staff

Council members and residents count on the city manager to provide complete and objective information about local operations, discuss the pros and cons of alternatives, and offer an assessment of the long-term consequences of decisions.

The city manager is appointed by, and serves at the pleasure of, the City Council. The manager makes policy recommendations to the Council for consideration and final decision.

Sounds almost the same.  So who runs these cities?  Is it the people we elect or the bureaucrats who are appointed?


Entry filed under: Community, Crystal, New Hope.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tom Mathias  |  July 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    The City Manager runs the day-to-day operations of the city. That is the way it is in almost every city everywhere in the country and in most civilized countries in the world now. The Mayor and the Council are the legislative body and the City Manager is the executive. Any changes in the Charter or in the laws have to be brought to the council for approval, but the normal operation of the city and the hiring and firing decisions are not subject to the council, except for the City Manager position (sometimes called the City Administrator).

    Some cities, such as Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth, have a strong mayor system in which the Council is the legislative body and the Mayor is the executive and the City Administrator works for him. In that system the Mayor and the Council are paid a full-time salary and actually run the city. If the City of Robbinsdale were to go to that sort of a system we would be spending a lot more money on salaries. As it is the Mayor of Robbinsdale makes around $10,000 per year and the council members each make about $8000 per year. If they were full time they would have to pay more, like $100,000 or more for the Mayor and probably at least $60-80,000 for council members on top of the City Manager’s $100,000+ salary (the City Manager currently makes around $160,000 I think).

    The Mayor and the Council can throw the Manager out anytime, and some cities do regularly turn over the Manager position. All it takes is a vote. The law you quoted says they have to give a reason, but that can be anything, and they can still dismiss on just one vote. The council also still has to approve every expense and every major decision.

  • 2. Rikta11  |  August 2, 2011 at 3:06 pm

    Why does everyone in city government need to make $100,000 a year?

  • 3. wants2know  |  August 15, 2011 at 11:48 am

    The latest posting of City of Crystal leadership employees.

    471.701, Minnesota Statute – requires that a city or county with a population of more than 15,000 must annually notify its residents of the positions and base salaries of its three highest-paid employees.

    For the City of Crystal, titles and salaries are:

    1) City Manager – $124,635.00
    2) Community Development Director – $104,888.64
    3) Finance Director – $104,888.64

    Dates of publication: May 13, 2011 – August 13, 2011

    How can the leadership of a city of roughly 22,000 people justify spending $324,412.38 for just three employees?


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