One cannot help but read the following November 4th email to members of the McHenry City Council and conclude that Mayor Sue Low has significantly tightened control over the city staff.
Employees now cannot speak to council members out of the presence of the Mayor and/or City Administrator.
The Aldermen must send an email with any questions, rather than just picking up the phone.
Emailed answers or at least acknowledgement that the question or request has been received will be provided within 24 hours the email says.
But, read it for yourself and see what conclusions you draw:
Subject: City Council – City Staff Communication Policy
It has become clear that communication between some Aldermen and the City Staff has gotten to a point as to interfere with the day-to-day operations and effectiveness of staff. Consistent contact which regularly calls in to question the interpretation and application of city policies and procedures is simply not conducive to an environment that fosters teamwork and a common mission or vision. As identified at the recent strategic planning session, we all agreed that our employees are our #1 STRENGTH. As such, they deserve the level of trust that allows them to carry out the policies of the municipality that we, as the elected body, enact within the confines of the Council Chambers.
In order to address Council-Staff communication, as the Chief Executive Officer of the City, I am implementing the following policy.
1. From this point forward any questions that council members have regarding the interpretation or application of municipal policies or procedures should be made via email to BOTH myself and Derik. We will coordinate with the appropriate staff and you will be provided with a response, via email, within 24 hours. Even if the issue cannot be addressed within that timeframe you will be provided with a response confirming that it is being addressed. Responses to all council member inquiries will be provided to all council members at the time of the response. Council inquiries that do not follow this procedure will not require a response and, furthermore, staff have been directed to remind council members of this protocol and ask that an inquiry be sent via email.
2. From this point forward any questions that council members have regarding City Council Meeting Agenda or Committee Agenda items shall be directed to BOTH myself and Derik no later than 3:00pm the day of a City Council Meeting. Staff works hard to provide us with City Council Agenda packets nearly five (5) days prior to the meeting date. Waiting until the meeting to ask questions or request information does not allow staff ample time to research an issue and provide us with the appropriate response. If time allows, questions to inquiries and/or additional information will be provided to all council members prior to the meeting via email. However, at the very least, staff will be prepared to address specific questions or provide additional information at the time of the meeting.
3. From this point forward face to face meetings between council members and staff will require scheduling. In other words, no unannounced meetings with the staff by City Council will take place. If you have questions or require information, simply follow the procedures outlined above. If, after this, a face to face meeting is warranted it will be arranged. The City Administrator and/or myself will participate in any meetings that take place between the Council and Department Directors.
I am sorry to have to implement this policy however I believe that it, if followed, will result in improved and more thorough responses to council members and will be less disruptive to the staff. If the Council thinks this issue should be handled differently please bring it up during a City Council meeting during “new business” and we can discuss it further in open session.