The blaring headline, the denigrating letters to the editor, the smoke thrown into our already hazy skies. All these false efforts result in the editor of this newspaper calling for the end of chaos at City Hall. Dire statements are cast forward that any action by the current City Council to govern this city are not worth our while.
I looked up the definition of chaos. Here are a few examples: a state of utter confusion; a confused mass or mixture; the confused unorganized state of primordial matter before the creation of distinct forms.
But city government is not in chaos. There should be no confusion about what is happening. What is happening is a change of government with a new City Council.
The prior City Council laid the foundation to make this transition difficult in how the contracts for the city manager and city attorney were contrived. There is litigation now blocking action by the City Council. As a result, I am not able to be more specific at this time about the current situation. But changes in appointed officials have occurred in the past. As has been reported, a hearing will be held to allow the City Council to proceed to determine if changes in appointed officials are needed.
The previous mayor and members of the City Council engaged in actions that were at times not in accordance with state law with previous appointed officials. Council members took actions regarding removal of appointed officials outside the public view based on statements by another council member. The law requires that actions regarding employment contracts of appointed officials be done at public meetings. That requirement can make for uncomfortable public discussions but closed door meetings are not allowed.
The chaos that is alleged to be occurring at this time was built into the current contracts of the city manager and city attorney. Boulder City is unique in how it was created as a city. That uniqueness traces back to the construction of Hoover Dam and the residents of Boulder City were able to write their own city charter. Our city charter makes clear that the City Council can appoint or remove certain officials. The city manager, clerk, attorney and municipal judge are the positions named in the charter.
The charter and the contracts make clear that these are “at will” positions. It is clear that the City Council may appoint or remove these appointed officials by a majority vote.
Each council has the right to determine who will hold these important positions. A majority of the City Council determines whether carryovers may be determined to be undesirable. That is the intent of the original city charter. It is expected and stated that the City Council will make these decisions at a public meeting.
I have made clear my intention to make government actions transparent to the public. That is also what the law requires. It may seem less troublesome to do what has been done in the past to pressure appointed officials to resign but that is not what the law requires. It is not transparent to the public either. Two council members may confer with one another on any issue. What is not allowed is for a majority of council members to discuss or deliberate issues unless it is at a public meeting. In my view, the council should be able to have a public meeting to discuss how a majority of the members determines to proceed.
To conclude the column this month, I want to thank all the residents, business owners and people providing service to us that are taking the necessary precautions to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. There are heavy burdens placed on us by the virus. Fortunately, the spread of the virus remains low in our city. The efforts by all of us to slow the spread of this terrible disease will allow for our residents to return to work, businesses to recover and children to return to classrooms.
Boulder City has faced many challenges over the decades since the construction of Hoover Dam. The spirit of the community will get us through this as well.
Kiernan McManus is mayor of Boulder City. He is a native of Boulder City first elected to City Council in 2017.