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Reject Cape Coral charter amendments

November 5, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Voters heading to the polls today and Tuesday will decide not only four city council seats but the fate of three proposed amendments to the city's charter.

Proposed by city council earlier this year, the amendments would change the city's governing document by giving council the ability to set personnel standards without recommendations from the city manager; would specifically define the ability of council members to go directly to staff for information; and would change the way the city pays severance compensation to "at will" employees let go by the city manager without cause.

We recommend a NO vote on each proposal, none of which was tendered by the city's Charter Review Commission.

* (Ordinance 33-11) Charter Amendment to allow council to establish personnel standards without recommendation of city manager. This proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter by permitting City Council to establish personnel standards without the requirement of a recommendation by the City Manager.

The city of Cape Coral has a relatively common form of government that divides responsibilities between the city manager (the administrative head) and council (the legislative and policy-making body.) The positions are far from equal - the city manager works for and at the pleasure of city council, which, in turn, works for and at the will of the voters and taxpayers.

It's a good system, a proven system, and, when properly applied, it works. Blurring the lines between admin and council by stripping the manager's role pertaining personnel policies has no benefit - at least no benefit to those of us footing the bill.

Vote NO to Charter Amendment to allow council to establish personnel standards without recommendation of city manager.

* (Ordinance 34-11) Charter Amendment allowing council members to deal with city employees directly regarding inquires and investigations. This proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter by clarifying how City Council Members may deal with City officers and employees who are subject to the direct supervision of the city manager directly without going through the city manager for routine informational inquires and Council authorized investigations.

The current charter already provides such authority: "Except for the purposes of inquires and investigations the Council or its members shall deal with City officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city manager solely through the city manager, and neither the Council nor its members shall give orders to any such officer or employee, either publicly or privately."

Council members can and do request paperwork- i.e. public records - from the city's staff. Council members can and do ask questions. Simply put, they do not have fewer rights than ordinary residents. That's pretty clear. The proposed amendment, while it appears on the surface to give council more latitude, muddies the waters with additional language that may actually inhibit the ability of individual council members to do the job they were elected to do - make informed decisions.

Vote NO on the Charter Amendment allowing council members to deal with city employees directly regarding inquires and investigations.

* (Ordinance 36-11) Charter Amendment altering amount required to be paid upon termination of assistant managers and department heads. This proposal amends the Cape Coral City Charter by changing the severance pay required to be paid when the City Manager terminates the employment of Assistant City Managers and Administrative Department Heads, at will, from four months salary to an amount up to four months salary.

Because they are paid with public money - our money - public employees have certain protections not found in the private sector. As per our city's charter, municipal employees may not be fired without cause with a few exceptions. Those exceptions fall within the top tier of management where the city manager has the ability to fire with or without cause. The exception gives a new manager the ability to create his or her own team of top administrators but it comes with a price - a set severance payment. The thinking behind this is twofold. It's fair to an employee cut without cause. And it provides some protection to the city as people set adrift with a clean work record can and do seek recourse through the courts. That can be pretty costly, win or lose.

Setting a sliding severance scale would do a couple of things, neither of them positive. It would open the door to claims of inconsistency and capriciousness. It also would hinder the city's ability to hire the brightest and the best - most of whom know that the average tenure of a city manager in Florida is but a few years and that they may be looking, too, no matter the job they've done should political winds blow in a different direction.

Vote NO on Charter Amendment altering amount required to be paid upon termination of assistant managers and department heads.

Breeze Endorsement Recap

Race: District 2, Cape Coral City Council

Vote John Carioscia Sr.

Race: District 3, Cape Coral City Council

Vote Leonard "Lenny" Nesta Jr.

Race: District 5, Cape Coral City Council

Vote Rana Erbrick

Race: District 7, Cape Coral City Council

Vote Derrick Donnell

Full candidate endorsements may be found on-line at cape-coral-daily-breeze.com under "editorials."

Early voting for the 2011 Cape Coral Municipal Election ends today at two early voting locations: the Cape Coral Branch Office, 1031 S.E. 9th Place, behind the Lee County building; and The Main Election Office, 2480 Thompson St., Third Floor, Fort Myers. Hours of operation 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Election Day is Tuesday. Polls throughout Cape Coral will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

- Breeze editorial

 
 

 

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