Vision Commission’s ideas for council oversight of city manager’s power to hire and fire

The Columbia City Council debated and withdrew a proposed amendment to the city charter Tuesday that would have required the council’s consent in the hiring and firing department heads. As the charter is written, the general manager has autonomous authority to hire and fire department heads. Had the proposal been approved, the charter amendment would have been added to the April 6 ballot.

The story I wrote garnered several comments, including at least one to point out that I omitted the recommendations of the Columbia Vision Commission.

Yes, I did. So let’s look at what the commission said:

(Click to enlarge. The full text can be found here.)

Yes, the commission did recommend greater council involvement in personnel decisions. The commission did not, however, recommend the city council have veto power over the city manager’s personnel decisions. As written, the proposed charter amendment would have given the council exactly that.

The proposed ballot initiative:

“PROPOSITION 7

SHALL SECTION 12 OF THE HOME RULE CHARTER FOR THE CITY OF COLUMBIA, MISSOURI BE AMENDED AS PROPOSED BY THE CITY COUNCIL TO PROVIDE THAT THE CITY MANAGER SHALL APPOINT AND REMOVE DEPARTMENT HEADS ONLY WITH THE ADVICE AND CONSENT OF THE CITY COUNCIL?”

The gist of Tuesday’s discussion, as I saw it, was that the proposed amendment had been rushed and that’s the story I tried to write. Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, none of the council members I interviewed, including Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala, mentioned the vision commission’s recommendations. It wasn’t clear to me that one begat the other and so I left it out of the story.

This is a story that deserves and will get further reporting.

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