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READER'S FORUM: Let The City Manager Manage
By Gerry Seitz
Mayor Joe Sack and the Rye City Council are considering a proposed amendment to the City Charter that would require the City Manager to consult with and receive approval from the Council regarding the appointment, suspension, and removal of a Police Commissioner.
The amendment appears to be innocuous on its face; however, I am opposed to it because it is 180 degrees opposite the requirement of the City Charter.
My concerns may well be viewed as technical or soporific, but they go to the heart of our Council-City Manager form of government. Essentially, the Council sets policy; the City Manager is the chief executive officer of the City, and is responsible for implementing that policy.
The Mayor is the first among equals on the Council and has control of setting the agenda and chairing Council meetings. He does not, however, under the charter, have the independent power to take action, give direction, or represent the City.
As I think about it, this all makes sense in the context of a municipality having Rye’s characteristics of a small population and a Council serving pro bono. The council sets policy; a paid professional acts as chief executive officer.
While the City Charter uses the term, “Chief Administrative Officer” to describe the role of City Manager, in fact, under the City Manager form of government, he or she clearly functions in an executive capacity. Some years ago, a Rye Corporation Counsel advised the City of this fact.
The system worked well until the last 12 years when Steve Otis, acting, I’m sure, in good faith, began referring to himself as the Chief Executive Officer of Rye. In wanting to be a “strong manager,” he ended up usurping some executive powers, with the end result that the City Manager, Julia Novak, left.
At that point, Frank Culross, came out of retirement to replace Novak. Fast forward. Paul Shew, who was hired as the successor to Culross and Novak after an expensive search, was fired.
Culross, the Mariano Rivera of City government, made another relief appearance, while the City engaged in another expensive search, culminating in the hiring of Scott Pickup, the number two man in the City’s administration. He was also, in the view of administrators from neighboring communities who discussed the matter with me, the best possible choice.
As we know, Scott too, is now gone. And yet again, Frank Culross to the rescue.
What’s the point of all this and who cares? Frankly, while I again think Joe means well, I think, very simply, under our present Charter, the City Manager should be able to discharge his duties as CEO of the City, unburdened by the well-meaning but unauthorized interference by the Mayor and Council.
Will Rye be hurt if this doesn’t eventuate? I think so. Even in today’s job market, it will be a hard sell to anyone of Frank Culross’ caliber to take the job in light of his or her three previous immediate predecessors.
Joe’s interest in pulling back control of one executive function, the hiring of a police chief or commissioner, would most likely be viewed as not only antithetical to the concept of a City Manager form of government (which Rye has), but also as a harbinger of problems to come.
The Council needs to reaffirm its commitment to that City Manager form of government, with all of its pluses and minuses, or the door to the City Manager’s office will continue to revolve to the detriment of the City and its people.
Softball Season Covered All the Bases
The 2014 Rye Recreation softball season has come to an end. It was another great year of softball in the City of Rye.
I would like to take some time to thank the people who helped contribute to the quality of softball this year in Rye. Thank you to the Rye Recreation Field Crew, which consists of full-time and seasonal staff, Kelvin Ceballos, Frank Cecere, Greg DeGaetano, Frank Errigo, John Demarco, Anthony Patafio, Brian Levinson, Frank Lopez, and Bruce Wessell. These gentlemen do a great job preparing the fields in this city for play, and they have done it every year.
Thank you to Sally Rogol for her willingness to listen and help throughout the season. Thank you to the USSSA umpires and to Carmen DeFabio and Joe Archino for their help coordinating and assigning umpires to every game. Thank you to Melanie Cane of The Rye Record for taking photos of our championship teams.
Finally, I also want to thank all the players, managers, and sponsors of the 2014 season as you are the reason we have a league. We will see you next season!
— Doug Scott,