Oct 26, 2023
Immediately before a new Board of Trustees for NIC was elected November 2022, the ISBE appointed Board hired a new President and provided him with an employment contract that made him almost impossible to replace. The bylaws of the College clearly state that the College President is accountable to the trustees, but since he can defy them at every turn and the board is not able to replace him, months of chaos has ensued.
Six months later, the out-going board of the Community Library Network made a similar contract with a newly appointed Library Director. Again, the new board of Trustees is at odds with the newly hired director, but is unable to replace her. It is almost impossible for an organization to function well when its elected officials are at odds with its chief administrator.
This week, Hayden's "outgoing", City Council will be hiring a new City Administrator, less that two weeks before a new council is elected, and some residents are getting an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu.
Is Hayden headed for the same orchestrated chaos that has beset NIC and CLN?
Maybe, may not. A great deal will depend on who is selected as City Administrator, but even more will depend on the terms of their employment contract. If the City Council adopts a contract with the new City Administrator that makes him extremely difficult to replace, then he may be much less motivated to take direction from the council.
It is unlikely that things will come to blows, but City Administrators have an enormous amount of control over how the city is run, and if they are not aligned with the goals and vision of the Council, there are many ways to set up obstacles.
What Idaho and Hayden Statutes have to Say
Title 50, Chapter 8 covers Council-Manager forms of government for cities, and it clearly states that City Managers work under the direction of the City Council, and can by removed by a simple majority.
So far, so good. But now lets look at Title 1, Chapter 8 of Hayden City Code, regarding the hiring of a City Administrator.
Ooops. It looks like, according to Hayden City Code an employment contract can be drawn up that over rides provisions set forth in section 50-206 of Idaho Code. But does it? Wow this is getting complicated.
First of all, lets look at Idaho Statute 50-206 to see what it says about "Removal of Appointive Officers".
Wow!! It looks like to us like City Managers are not even included in the general provisions of the Idaho Statutes that govern the removal of Appointive Officers. The reason is for this is that City Managers act directly in place of a mayor and city council, and holds their office at the"pleasure of the majority of the city council". They are not, therefore, an "appointed officer" in the same sense as a Parks or Public Works Director.
So what does all this mean? We don't know exactly.
Clearly there are ways to make a newly hired City Administrator difficult, if not impossible, to fire. For example, an excessive severance package, or other such provisions that would make their dismissal expensive and burdensome.
But still, the Hayden City Code that allows for an "express employment contract" that overrides elected officials ability to govern is troublesome. What does it mean that the the "city Administrator shall be subject to policy direction by the city council through its official actions" mean exactly? Does that mean that in order to influence the City Administrator, the City Council must pass a resolution on every individual matter?
What rights that properly belong to the Hayden City council are being diverted by this city ordinance?
Just Don't Screw up the City Administrator's Contract
All this confusion can be avoided simply by making a contract with the New City Administrator which is not designed to tie the hands of the incoming Mayor and City Council.
If the new City Administrator is certain that they are serving at the pleasure of the new Council, there should not be any conflict. In other words, any elaborate "protections" that the City Attorney inserts into the new City Administrator's contract, that will guarantee their employment, may come at the expense of the sovereignty of the elected officials.
The City Administrator and City Council need to work as a team, and an employment contract that sets them up as adversaries instead of collaborators would be a monumental disservice to the residents of Hayden.
The following Public Commentary concerning employment contracts for the City Administor were was given at Hayden's October 24th City Council Meeting. Both implore the city government to avoid the unnecessary drama and acrimony that could follow if the terms of employment of Hayden's new City Administrator create difficulties for the incoming Council.
The first comment is offered by a Trustee of the Community Library Network, who has herself had te deal with an employment contract that was specifically set up to sabotage the new Board Members.
The Second Commentary is from a Hayden grandmother associated with Save Hayden.
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