It was painful to read the stories of the marathon “hearing” conducted by the Mt. Juliet City Commission last Monday night. And they’re not done yet. After meeting until midnight, they will resume next Saturday, May 8th, at 10am.
The embarrassing airing of dirty laundry, questions, accusations, and innuendo is a perfect illustration of what a terrible idea it is for the City Commission to get involved in hiring & firing decisions. By state law, the City Commission cannot take any action, or conduct any debate behind closed doors. If they become involved in personnel decisions, they are obligated to make it a public spectacle. The result is bad for everyone. It’s bad for the citizens; it’s bad for the affected employee; it’s bad for the city manager; and it’s bad for the City Commission. All this badness is rooted in two serious errors – the desire by the mayor to acquire more power over the operations of the city, and the cavalier way in which the entire commission ignores the city charter.
Monday night’s spectacle illustrates the wisdom of the City Charter, which divides the policy-making functions (which belong to the City Commission) from the operational function (which is directed by the City Manager). The City Manager, according to the charter, has absolute control over the hiring and firing of city employees. The only two employees hired by the City Commission are the City Manager and the City Judge.
The Mt. Juliet City Commission made a huge mistake when they adopted personnel ordinances which provide for an appeal from the City Manager to the City Commission. They should have known better. It violates the charter. And it’s just plain stupid. There are over 100 employees working for the city. There are, most likely, terminations every month of the year. Does the city commission want to hear appeals every month? Even if they wanted to, it would be both a bad idea, and a charter violation.
They should fix their mistake and repeal the 2009 personnel ordinance.