Oct 16 2018

OPINION: Vote NO on Piedmont CC – The Hire But Not Fire Charter Proposal

Alice Creason, former Piedmont Mayor, Councilmember, and Planning Commissioner asks Piedmonters to vote NO on Piedmont Measure CC.

CC has been called the “hire but cannot fire” proposal, because the Council is required to hire key-employees (Fire Chief, Police Chief, Finance Director, Recreation Director, etc.), but under Measure CC, the Council would be  forbidden by Charter under all circumstances from evaluating, directing or firing the key-employees they recruit and hire. Only the City Administrator would be entitled to fire Council-hired key-employees. 

Ballot Measure CC pretends to merely clarify reporting, but it is not a clarification.  It is a dramatic change in Piedmont governance taking  authority from the Council and placing it overwhelmingly with the City Administrator.

Piedmont, as a public entity, cannot be run like a corporate board.  Piedmont has an elected City Council accountable to Piedmonters. The public has a right by law to influence the Council, but not a City Administrator.

The following was stated publicly:

“Paul [Piedmont’s current City Administrator Paul Benoit] commented that he would certainly confer with the Council in the managing and firing of City employees.”

This statement illustrates one of the problems.   If the Council intends for the City Administrator to consult with them prior to “managing or firing” City employees, this language should have been written into the Charter, which it was not. This leaves a large gap in the Council’s oversight role.

The Piedmont City Charter, basis of Piedmont governance, is written for all – the Council, City Administrator, City Attorney, Police Chief, Fire Chief, candidates for office, residents, etc.; it cannot be based on individuals personality.

Measure CC proposes that Council-hired key-employees will serve at “the pleasure of ” the enhanced City Administrator rather than “at the pleasure” of the elected City Council thus initiating potential employment problems for the Council-hired key-employees – Police Chief, Fire Chief, Recreation Director, Finance Director, etc.

Piedmont without a directly elected mayor  has a “strong 5 member” City Council form of government. All Council members are equal in their voting and consideration of issues. Forfeiting responsibility and authority to the proposed strong and enhanced City Administrator form of government takes matters away from public view with a loss of accountability.

The City Council has never “managed” the administration of the City. This is not allowed by the City Charter.  Readers of the current City > Charter will note clear roles assigned to the City Council and Administrator. Councils work with the City Administrator to assure their public policies are implemented.  No change is needed to clarify reporting authority, for it is already written into the Charter and changing it as proposed makes no sense, creates conflict and new issues not addressed in the proposed update.

Take a look at cities around us.  Most recently, the City of Alameda reached a City Administrator/ Council disagreement regarding a Fire Chief. The Council ended up terminating the City Administrator with a costly severance package of approximately a million dollars.  Piedmont has avoided this kind of unheval under our current form of government.  The proposed hybrid enhanced City Administrator form of government will likely increase costs.

Piedmont has been successfully managed for well over 75 years with the current system of checks and balances stated in the City Charter.

Updating the City Charter should not result in a change of Piedmont’s governance. Unfortunately, the faulty sections proposed cannot be separated from the entire proposal, thus the entire measure should be rejected. 

With over 22 years of public office experience and careful review of Measure CC, I recommend that voters reject Measure CC and vote NO.

Voters should await an appropriate revision to the City Charter by voting NO on Measure CC at the end of your ballot.

Alice Creason, Former Piedmont Mayor, Councilmember, Planning Commissioner, AC Transit President and Board Member, Trustee Piedmont Beautification Foundation

2 Responses to “OPINION: Vote NO on Piedmont CC – The Hire But Not Fire Charter Proposal”

  1. Does Piedmont remain a City where the City Administrator is answerable to the City Council, a model that has served us for 111 years, or will we vote to change the basic model to a City Manager who will have significantly more autonomous authority?
    When voters approved the last Charter change in 1980, there was a Charter Committee that worked for over 2 years prior to bringing it to City Council for a nearly year long discussion before the proposed Charter revision was placed before voters. Throughout that robust process the system of a City Administrator and not an autonomous City Manager was left in place because it is an essential characteristic of Piedmont.

  2. Please vote No on CC. Why give up power to an unelected person and take it away from the elected representatives? Next the individual will perhaps acquire the job of being in control of all the hiring. This is reverse political Darwinism. I don’t care how other cities operate. Having the people’s representatives make major decisions has worked for us. The person with the power to fire people in key jobs is the most powerful person in the city. Never put our city in the position of depending on the good will and judgement of any one unelected employee. I am running an up~hill race for City Council and I think any policy like this leaves us in a vulnerable position. Sunny Bostrom~Fleming

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