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City officials differ on chain of command
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The chain of command is experiencing some kinks in McMinnville city government.
According to city administrator David Rutherford, he has seen a disturbing trend since the election in that he has had minimal contact with new board members.
“The mayor and I had a conversation that is a little disturbing to me,” said Rutherford. “He informed me the board members were not going to be talking to me. They were going to be talking through him. That’s not a good way for you guys to do your job.”
Leading to the statement was Rutherford outlining his job responsibilities during a recent meeting.
“Basically, I oversee day-to-day operations and coordinate that through the department heads,” said Rutherford. “I directly supervise all department heads and coordinate all activities of each department of the city according to the policies and directive of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.”
Specific duties include advising the board, giving reports to the board, generating an annual budget, enforcing all personnel rules, regulations and policies, hiring and firing department heads, and acting as a liaison between the city’s various boards, among other responsibilities.
The responsibilities of the city administrator are outlined in ordinance No. 1518. Under section 1-706 of that ordinance, it states “The Board of Mayor and Aldermen and its members shall deal with the administrative services of the city only through the city administrator, except for the purposes of inquiry, and neither the board nor any member thereof shall give orders and instructions to any subordinate of the city administrator.”
The ordinance also states, “In the interest of efficient, economic, and harmonious administration of the affairs of the city, it is essential that all employees, subordinate officers, appointed members, and elected members of the city board strictly adhere to the chain of command and the chain of coordination established to administer the affairs of the city.”
Vice Mayor Ben Newman admitted to making an “inquiry” to McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton.
“The only thing I see in here that would allow us to have any contact with a city employee is for the purposes of inquiry,” said Newman. “I had asked Bryan to prepare a short summary overview of what the police department needs. I feel that is a purpose of inquiry.”
The inquiry included an instruction to present a departmental report which violates the chain of command, according to Rutherford.
“That falls under departmental reports,” Rutherford said. “If you want to do it in committee, then the chair of the committee needs to talk to me. I can make sure you get the information you need.”
Newman says he wanted to bring the discussion of relocating the police department before the full board because of public interest in the situation.
“That’s fine,” said Rutherford. “Bryan called and told me what you asked for. I told him to go ahead and do it, but the proper thing to do would have been to call me to have Bryan prepare a departmental report. If you are going to hold me accountable for the day-to-day operations of the city, I need to know what’s on your mind.”
Mayor Jimmy Haley stated, “Or you can channel that through me because I’m supposed to be the main directive between the board and Mr. Rutherford.”
That comment triggered a response from Rutherford, who stressed he has no ill will toward board members.
“If you want to know what’s going on in the city, you should feel comfortable enough to contact the city administrator,” said Rutherford. “I’m not going to shoot you or cuss you out. You need to be able to go where the information is. If you contact department heads, they are going to turn around and call me.”
Rutherford ended his portion of the orientation meeting by presenting each board member with a five-year Capital Improvement Plan generated in 2012 and a copy of the city’s recent audit.