Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

During the tenure of Glendale’s former Mayor Scruggs she tried to create a strong mayor form of government rather than our existing council-manager form. Her moves were covert and subtle but ultimately she failed…thank goodness. A strong mayor form of government creates a mayor whose authority is supreme over the rest of council and the city manager. The mayor enjoys a vast amount of power. The council-manager form of government is a partnership. There is no supreme authority vested in any one person in office. All of council equally shares authority and by charter, the city manager is authorized to manage city personnel and is charged with presenting an annual budget to the council.

It’s as if the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction as there appears to be concerted effort on the part of senior management to direct city council authority to the city manager. It is insidious and dangerous to citizen-driven government.

The City Charter under Article II, Section 1 vests “all powers of the city” to the city council, especially financial authority.  Under Article III, Section 3 the city manager is the “chief executive officer and head of the administrative branch of the city government.” The city council appoints the city manager. He or she serves at the pleasure of the city council. The city manager, in addition to being responsible for all powers, duties and responsibilities of all city employees, presents an annual budget for council’s review. Council may amend or change any provision of the budget before its annual adoption.

Make no mistake. By charter, it is the city council’s exclusive authority to decide on all financial matters related to the city.

The city charter explicitly vests all financial power and responsibilities with the city council. This power is slowly being eroded. For any of you who watch city council voting meetings you have seen me routinely pull items off of the consent agenda for a separate vote and probably have wondered why I do it. It is tedious and time consuming but I believe it is necessary.

This Tuesday I will be pulling 9 items out of a 26 item consent agenda. All of these items grant administration the authority to expend money for various equipment and service contracts. This particular item #8 is seeking council approval to enter into an agreement with Physio-Control, Inc., for the purchase of heart monitors/defibrillators in the amount of $1,250,000 over the next five years at the city manager’s discretion.

All of the 9 items I will pull from the consent agenda contain this language, “This is also a request for the City Council to authorize the City Manager, at their discretion [city council’s], to extend the warranty of the heart monitors and defibrillators for an additional four-years…”

It sounds so efficient, doesn’t it? City council gives up its authority to the city manager to extend a contract without bothering city council for annual approval. This authority was not granted during my watch on council. It had to have been instituted during my four year hiatus (2013-2016).

The current city manager is thoughtful and trustworthy but that has not always been the case. Witness the terrible reigns of former City Managers Ed Beasley and Brenda Fischer. Fortunately they did not have this kind of authority. If council had allowed them greater financial authority lord knows what would have occurred. Giving greater authority to the current city manager may be comfortable for some councilmembers but there is no guarantee, despite the vetting that council does in hiring a city manager, that all future city managers will not abuse this newly created authority.

Many of the contracts that come before us are now typically for five years. How long are council terms? Four years.  It is conceivable that new councilmembers would be asked to approve a new contract without the benefit of any history on the previous terms of the original contract. There is no continuity. Council willingly gives up its authority to review, question and approve/deny the expenditure of funds for 4 years, the entire term of a city councilmember.

In addition, council has willingly given its fiscal authority to the city manager by allowing him or her, at his or her discretion, to extend the contract for an additional 4 years. How many contracts for equipment and services come before council in a fiscal year? Hundreds and now many of them will slip into a black hole that grants the city manager the right to expend funds  through the use of annual extensions without any council oversight.

One of the major imperatives of the city charter is council administration of all city expenditures. Council has already ceded a portion of that authority by granting the city manager the authority to make expenditures up to $50,000 without council oversight or approval. A one year contract with the ability of the city manager to extend it for an additional four years without council oversight is an additional step in the erosion of the charter mandate of council’s authority over all city expenditures. It is a slippery slope.

Councilmembers represent you, the Glendale citizen. You expect us to be knowledgeable about how and why the city’s money is being spent. You expect us to be fiscally prudent stewards of city expenditures. Giving up that authority to the city manager removes you from the process and creates less transparency. No longer does your representative, a councilmember, review all city expenditures. Often neither the city councilmember nor you will have any knowledge of the city manager’s decision regarding the renewal or extension of a particular contract.

That is why at every council voting meeting I pull every contract from the consent agenda for a separate vote that is five years in length or contains the provision to allow the city manager to extend at his discretion. In keeping with my belief that council should not be ceding its prime, city charter mandated, financial responsibility and authority to review, question and approve/deny all city expenditures I will continue my practice and vote ‘no.’

© Joyce Clark, 2017                 


This site contains copyrighted material the use of which is in accordance with Title 17 U.S. C., Section 107. The ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law and who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such material. For more information go to http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use,’ you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.