The agenda item referred to in Mr. Lindsay’s email below was placed on the agenda by Nat Bates (F-2 Vote of no confidence in the performance of: (1) Tim Jones, RHA Executive Director, and (2) Kathleen Jones, RHA Administrative Staff - Commissioner Bates).
Mayor and Members of the City Council:
You may recall nearly a year ago that the agenda for the April 2, 2013 City Council meeting included an agenda item, "Adopt a Resolution calling for Restoration of Public Trust through the Removal of Executive City Employee." This item was placed on the agenda by Mayor McLaughlin and Councilmember Beckles. At that time, I recommended to the City Council that the item be tabled without discussion or public comment, and the Council voted in a manner consistent with that recommendation.
The March 12, 2014 special meeting of the City Council (meeting as the Housing Authority Board) similarly includes item F-2, “Vote of no confidence in the performance of: (1) Tim Jones, RHA Executive Director, and (2) Kathleen Jones, RHA Administrative Staff - Commissioner Bates.” For the reasons outlined in this email, and consistent with the views that I have expressed to the Council in the past, I am recommending that this item be tabled without discussion or public comment.
Purely from the perspective of Council authority, and purely as a statement, I understand this to be a legally permissible action. However, I believe that the proposed action raises serious issues regarding City Council encroachment into personnel matters that are inconsistent with the city manager form of government and could possibly lead to violations of State law regarding employee privacy.
As your city manager, I have obligations under the Charter to administer City affairs, including the appointment and removal of City employees who are not otherwise direct appointees of the City Council (i.e., city manager, city attorney, city clerk, and confidential investigative appeals officer). Moreover, I have an ethical obligation as a city manager to administer these City affairs objectively and independently.
Tenet 10 of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Code of Ethics states that an obligation of a city manager includes to, "Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the (ICMA) member should be free to carry out official policies without interference, and handle each problem without discrimination on the basis of principle and justice."
This tenet is rooted in good government. Employees of the City of Richmond, or of any city, should be able to undertake their responsibilities without fear of political reprisal. While there are no stated reasons for the proposed “no confidence” vote, I will assume that there is a concern regarding the work performance of the employees in question. Nonetheless, the form of the proposed action could be easily extended into situations where political judgments or acrimony are factored into a perception of work performance. One can see a city council adopting a resolution calling for the removal of an employee who lawfully issues a building permit for an entitled development project that no longer has political support; or for the removal of a police chief who refuses to "fix" a ticket. With respect to the Housing Authority, it could extend to proposing removal of an employee who seeks to enforce valid rules regarding tenant behavior, rental collection, or Section 8 administration. An important role of a city manager is, in part, to prevent encroachment on an employee’s ability to carry out officially adopted policies and professional responsibilities. The proposed agenda item leaves the door open for that type of encroachment.
In addition, the proposed action is at least premature. The City Council has, I believe wisely, directed that there be a thorough, independent, management audit of the Richmond Housing Authority. In my view, it is important to assess the performance of the Housing Authority as an entire organizational entity, rather than to single out individuals for blame, especially before the management audit has been completed. The Council-approved audit will be useful to determine how the Richmond Housing Authority can improve, and will undoubtedly go beyond personnel changes in its recommendations.
Finally, a public forum such as a City Council meeting, does not offer an opportunity for the Council to be circumspect and cautious in dealing with this matter, and may not be conducive to respecting employee privacy rights. By their very nature, comments by the public and by Councilmembers on the proposed action may well intrude on the rights of employees.
In sum, I believe that the proposed “no confidence” vote is (1) a serious encroachment on the professional responsibilities of your city manager, (2) an action that is being taken without full knowledge of the facts in this case, and (3) potentially intrusive of employee rights.
As I indicated above, I am recommending that the Council adopt a motion to table the agenda item, with no debate on this motion and with a simple majority required for passage.
I understand that this recommendation will not sit well with at least some City Councilmembers. I also know that the City Council is interested in setting an example of respectful dialogue as a policymaking body. Discussion on the proposed action (F-2) will not set such an example.
I appreciate your thoughtful consideration of my recommendation on this important issue. As always, it is a privilege to serve the Richmond community.
City of Richmond
450 Civic Center Plaza
Richmond, California 94804
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