WESTMINSTER - Council members responding to the mayor's complaints that he was being stripped of power have postponed creating a city manager post until they can explore an advisory group's reasoning in forming the chain of command.
Members of the Advisory Task Force Committee on Governmental Administration, appointed by the council in May to study how the different segments of government might interact more effectively, will attend the Oct. 8 council meeting to explain why they chose to have the city manager report to the council instead of the mayor.
"This is fair to the mayor and the citizens as a whole, and the council can fully understand the task force's reasoning," said Councilman Mark S.
Snyder Monday night. "We want to delve into the minds of the committee members, not put them on the hot seat."
Nevertheless, Mayor W. Benjamin Brown insisted he be given a chance to speak before the issue was tabled.
"Am I being silenced again?" he asked, referring to an April budget hearing dispute in which Council President Kenneth J. Hornberger cut off Brown's remarks, when told speaking on a motion being tabled was out of order.
Brown said the call for a city manager is a direct result of that earlier confrontation, after which the council asked for the mayor's resignation.
Reading from the City Code and the 1968 rules of order, Brown said these give him power to administer departments and require the council to question the city staff through the mayor.
"How can the mayor be responsible for placing department heads in a difficult postion (between the mayor and council)?" he asked, adding that he felt council members had overstepped their authority.
"It takes a certain amount of unmitigated gall to remove the powers of the mayor," Brown said. "Your motives are perfectly clear to the citizens of Westminster, the spotlight is on you."
However, task force members say their decision is in line with the city charter and, therefore, the intent of the city's founders.
"Our charter is set up so that we have a weak mayor-strong council form of government," said Don Adams, owner of Future Antiques. "Somewhere along the line he was given powers to control some of the day-to-day operations."
Adams also said having the city manager report to more than one person removes the possibility of him becoming a political pawn.
"If the existing mayor is not re-elected, then the new one could theoretically appoint someone else," he said. "If the job is not secure politically, then you can't get the caliber person needed to run a $12 million organization."