Roswell Mayor Jere Wood has proposed rules of conduct “to foster an environment of civility and effectiveness and to establish the manner in which mayor and city council should interact with staff.”
The document is an outgrowth of discussions during last year’s council retreat, but Wood said it was something he had wanted to put together for many years.
“We’ve talked about it but never codified it. When rules are not clear, it’s easy to get lost in the fog,” he said. In a council workshop last week, Wood said he wanted to get agreement on the rules before he appointed council members as liaisons to various city departments for 2014.
The first rule is that no individual member of council can give direction to city employees, such as instructing a code enforcement officer to issue a citation, telling staff members to attend a homeowners association or other citizens’ meeting or asking staff a question the elected official “knows or should know” would require analysis or research to answer.
Such questions should be brought to the city administrator to direct staff to answer, according to the draft document presented at the workshop. The council member may suggest to the administrator what action the staff might take.
Similarly, the mayor may not direct city employees, except as authorized by the city charter or city ordinance. The rules also say no council member can “reprimand, rebuke, reproof or scold” staff. Any complaints about staff have to be made to the city administrator, a department head, the city attorney or the mayor.
Violation of any of the conduct rules could result in a public sanction.
“The enforcing body is not the [state board of ethics] or any other group, it’s the council themselves,” Wood said. “Any issue would come to closure and only if council wants a sanction would it go public. But I see a lot being resolved in closure.”
Council members are not considered city personnel in that they are not bound by the same personnel policies as city employees.
But for purposes of closed-door council meetings to discuss personnel, the law considers council members ‘public officers’ and as such, any deliberations concerning their behavior may be conducted entirely in private.
Wood said he didn’t foresee a passel of frivolous complaints lodged as a result of this conduct code. “You can really [enrage] someone with a public sanction, so you don’t want to do that unless it’s serious,” he said.
Council members said they generally had no problems with the rules, as long as they were modified to prohibit asking staff questions that require “extensive” research.
The rules of conduct will be on the council’s Jan. 27 agenda in the form of a resolution.