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Mayor Exercises Veto Power

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Downing Says Ordinance Gives Too Much Power To City Administrator

By Joe Foreman, Editor

A city council-approved ordinance that outlines the duties and responsibilities of the mayor and city administrator / financial manager does not have the blessing of Glenwood Mayor Dyle Downing.

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On Monday, Downing issued his formal veto of Ordinance 820 “because it gives almost all the authority of the operation of the City of Glenwood to a non-elected position, which I strongly oppose.”

The ordinance, which has been in the works since last spring, was approved by the council last month.

Downing said the city ordinances that are already in place are “well written and contain many cross-checks” between the mayor, council and city administrator. The new ordinance, he believes, contains conflicting language and strips authority from the mayor.

“Everything has to go through the city administrator now,” Downing said. “It makes vanilla out of the mayor’s duties.”

According to wording in the new ordinance, the city administrator will be responsible for “the day-to-day operation of all department heads.” Those department heads, including the public works director and police chief, will report directly to the city administrator. Any issues the department heads wish to bring before the council must first be reviewed and discussed with the city administrator.

As for the mayor’s duties, the ordinance describes that position as the city’s chief executive officer. The mayor is responsible for “supervising all departments of the city, except for supervisory duties as assigned by ordinance to the city administrator / financial manager, give direction to the department heads concerning the functions of the department, and shall have the power to examine all functions of the municipal departments.”

Downing said theoretically, because the way the ordinance is written, the mayor could make a request or give an assignment to a city employee, but the employee wouldn’t have to carry out the assignment because they’re also under direct supervision of the city administrator.

Kay LeFever, chair of the council committee that drafted the new ordinance, said an extensive amount of time and research has gone into writing the ordinance. She noted that the mayor’s job description was taken from the Iowa State Code.

“The mayor has to have an overall view of everything that’s going on,” LeFever said. “When they (city employees) are reporting to the city administrator, they’re actually reporting to the mayor.”

“There are none (employees) that come directly to him, but he has the general oversight to supervise them.”

LeFever said the mayor still has the authority to request to see reports and information on all matters related to city business.

Downing stated in his letter of veto that he wants council members to go back and “read the bill” and also get input from your voters before taking further action on the subject.”

Downing has just three weeks left in office before he hands over the gavel to mayor-elect Kim Clark.

“I could just let this go, but I don’t think it’s right for the city or the next mayor, or the next mayor after that,” Downing said. “This isn’t about the person (city administrator Mary Smith), it’s about the position. Mary does a very good job, but she’s not going to be here forever and I just don’t believe you should give that much power to one non-elected position.”

The new ordinance, LeFever said, will require the city administrator to report directly to the city council.

The city council does have the authority to override Downing’s veto. The council has a 30-day window to carry out an override that would require the support of at least four of the five council members. The matter could be addressed at the council’s last meeting of the year on Tuesday, Dec. 22.