What does the Town Council do? (January 30, 2018)

Pat Orr

By Pat Orr


As a former elected official on a board of five members, I sometimes get frustrated when I read letters to the editor asking Council members to respond to specific questions or berate them for not getting hands-on with specific departments, employees or complaints.

Why aren’t they more “transparent” — a favorite and abused buzz word lately — about all financial transactions and expenditures? It took me a while and some gentle “raps on the knuckles” when I was elected to remind me that, like the Council members, there is one and only one employee I was empowered to give direction to. In my case, it was the school superintendent. In their case, it is the town manager. He is the only person they can hire and fire and then only by majority vote.

When you get disarray and chaos is when you have individual members believing they have individual power. Some of the recent headlines in Victorville testify to what happens when a council member doesn’t quite get the “team sport” aspect of municipal oversight.

A town council sets policy. Period, end of statement. They do not report to the public on financial matters. They probably shouldn’t ask questions in public they don’t already know the answers to. They can and do query and complain and refer issues to their conduit to the rest of the staff, the town manager.

It is appropriate for members of the voting public to ask specific detailed questions of elected council members, but don’t expect specific detailed answers from them personally, that task belongs to full-time professional staff.

If that sounds like passing the buck or letting them off the hook, it isn’t, it’s just reality. No smart elected official can withstand any serious public mis-statements in this 24-hour news cycle world, even in little old Apple Valley, so it’s just better that answers come from the pros hired to give the correct answer. It’s also good policy.

Source: Daily Press