The East Baton Rouge Parish Plan of Government committee appears adamant about asking voters to create a city manager position within city-parish administration, but one question remains: Should the mayor or the Metro Council be involved in the hiring process?
Some committee members said they fear if the mayor-president is allowed to make the hire, as is often the case with administrative heads, the proposed position runs the risk of becoming another politically-motivated appointment.
Other committee members, however, said the Metro Council shouldn't have any say in the matter because the position would technically fall under the mayor-president's administrative umbrella.
"I think if it's going to be under the mayor's administration, and we're talking about (the position) alleviating some of the responsibilities of the current chief administrative officer, why do we have to approve it as a council?" Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, who chairs the committee, said during an interview after Thursday's meeting.
As it's currently proposed, the mayor-president would need council approval to hire a city manager, but not to fire the person.
Metro Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis, in an appearance Monday before the Baton Rouge Press Club, distanced herself from a proposal to dissol…
When she first mentioned the committee's idea for a city manager position during a Baton Rouge Press Club appearance Monday, Collins-Lewis said the person would oversee the day-to-day operations of city departments, giving the mayor-president's chief administrative officer more time to concentrate on implementing the policies and community initiatives of the mayor.
Donna Fraiche, mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome's designee on the 11-member committee, said Thursday the mayor also expressed concerns about the Metro Council's involvement in the selection process should the amendments from the committee gain the voter approval to be adopted into the parish's home rule charter.
The matter was deferred Thursday so Fraiche could consult further with Broome about the proposed change and clear up a few questions about the job descriptions of the city manager and the CAO as proposed by the committee.
But the decision to defer came after a lengthy discussion.
"Is that mayor going to supply one individual? Does the mayor supply a group of names?" Assistant Parish Attorney Tedrick Knightshead said during the meeting.
Winston Decuir responded: "The mayor gets to select. All the council gets to do is approve or disapprove. … They don’t get to come up with their own names."
Knightshead then asked, "What if the mayor keeps selecting the same person and the council keeps rejecting them?"
"Politically, I don't think a mayor would do that," BRAC Executive Director Adam Knapp chimed in.
Knightshead later said, "If I was mayor, I wouldn’t want the (council) approval aspect written into the job title. If I’m forced to hire a person the 12 council members feel is appropriate, and the person doesn’t work out, it reflects on me. Nobody cares about the confirmation, they care about the job."
Decuir, a proponent pushing for the Metro Council's involvement in the hiring, argued that having the mayor-president's pick confirmed by the council would give council members a vested interest in the hire and assurances the individual isn't a puppet of the administration.
"We want them to not look at this person like they're going to say whatever it is the mayor wants them to say," Decuir said. "We want them to look at it like, 'We hired this outside expert to give us some advice and I'm going to believe what they're saying because I reviewed their credentials.'"
Knapp said it would be tougher to attract qualified talent without the Metro Council confirmation.
"If it's just a direct appointee of the mayor, it's really just a political hire as much as any other position," he said.
If the Metro Council did reject a city manager candidate from the mayor, Decuir said, the mayor-president would then serve in the position by default.
"But that's what we're trying to avoid," Collins-Lewis said.
"I don’t think anything we write can fix dysfunctional government," Decuir said. "We have to presume people will make good decisions. Trying to craft something to deal with the 1-percent scenarios is just not going to work. Will spend all year trying to figure out how to massage this."