Members of Dover’s City Council did the right thing in agreeing to the request by City Manager Scott Koenig that he personally have the authority to hire staff to fill city positions already authorized.
Seven of the Council’s nine members were present at Monday night’s meeting and all agreed that Koenig deserved the authority, which essentially represents the procedure before Council set a recent hiring freeze. Giving Koenig the hiring power is a vote of confidence in how he is doing his job.
About ten positions are now open. The 2013 fiscal year budget, which began July 1, authorizes a total of 366 city employees.
As Koenig pointed out in his request, the Council is a legislative body, setting city policy. Koenig, as city manager, has the day-to-day responsibility of running the city.
In a small city, where office holders are usually well known and have frequent contact with constituents, it is natural that citizens are often quick to ask a member of Council personally for help with an issue that really falls within the purview of the city manager to handle.
When that happens, it is also natural for the council member to check on the situation, a move that can easily be regarded as following through on a matter of interest to a constituent and therefore can also be seen as the kind of action that is likely to be remembered at the next election.
The city manager can’t refuse to listen to the council member in such an instance but the council member should make an effort to suggest the step to be taken instead of intruding on the city manager’s established role.
The city’s employees have gone through a nervous time recently as council members, in trying to set a budget that fairly meets the community’s needs, considered a variety of ways to save money. “Saving money” can often be translated as trimming city staff members. Naturally that makes people uneasy. We hope that with the fiscal course now set that everyone can breath easier. We are fortunate to have such a capable city staff.