The Role of the City Manager
Is anyone else at all squeamish about a city manager asserting the authority to go ahead with layoffs without City Council approval, as has happened in East Providence? For the background, here’s the Projo‘s Alisha A. Pina from yesterday…
[East Providence] will lay off 13 of its 100 police officers immediately to save $1 million, City Manager Richard Brown announced at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting….I thought the job of the city manager in a council-manager system was to implement the decisions made by the City Council, and I’m pretty sure the East Providence City Council approved a police budget that specified a certain number of positions (then again, they may also approved a budget that said spend only so much money, and charged the CM with finding “savings”).
He also said he did not need the council’s approval and planned to have the Human Resources Department act immediately on his decision. The changes — from a budgeted force of 104 to an actual force of 87 — are estimated to save $1,057,500.
I suppose the Council retains the ultimate say, in that they could fire the city manager if they really don’t like a decision that is made, but especially in Rhode Island, allowing yet another layer of indirection to be placed between decisions impacting public services and the accountability of the decision maker to the public does not strike me as particularly wise.