Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sun Valley mulls administrator duties

Mayor concerned position could assume too much power


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

The city of Sun Valley's personnel policies and a former employee's interpretation of them have led the City Council and mayor to re-examine portions of the policy before launching a search for a new city administrator.

City officials at a special meeting Monday reviewed the position's job description, set a salary range and agreed to interview executive search firms. But first, Mayor Dewayne Briscoe explained why he created a new, temporary position to carry out some duties of that role.

When former City Administrator Sharon Hammer was terminated in January, Briscoe opted for a temporary replacement in the form of an interim executive assistant to the mayor.

"I felt that there were some significant problems in the description as written, and ... the interpretation of those policies by [the] previous city administrator," he said. "So it was my decision at that time that I did not want to entertain applications for a temporary city administrator because I found fault with the job descriptions. I wanted the job descriptions cleaned up before we started the hunt for a city administrator."

Briscoe said an attorney suggested that temporary position to help conduct the city's business but without having the authority of a city administrator.

"They would be very limited in their authority on an interim basis," he said.

Briscoe read part of a Dec. 27, 2011, memorandum from Hammer to the former Mayor Wayne Willich and the City Council, in which she cited city policy as support for her authority. The memorandum quoted the city's Personnel Policies and Procedures as stating that "[t]he city administrator shall make the final determination of questions of interpretation of these policies and the application of these policies."

Briscoe said a city administrator could interpret that to mean that he or she has more authority than the mayor and council. He acknowledged that "that's never been a problem in the past with other, previous city administrators claiming they had this broad power over the council, over the mayor, over everyone else in the city."

However, he said, "I felt that interpretation unacceptable, which is why until that is changed, and that interpretation is corrected, I did not entertain an interim city administrator."

It was unclear when that language was put in the policy manual or if it was authorized by the City Council. If it was done improperly, the policy may not be valid, said Virginia Egger, interim executive assistant to the mayor.

"That would be worth looking into," said Councilman Nils Ribi.

The city is reviewing its policy and procedure manual, which will be an agenda item at a meeting this spring.

The council on Monday agreed to set a salary range of $95,000 to $130,000 for the next city administrator. The council will interview potential recruiters before signing on with one to begin the search.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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