The city manager is responsible for implementing the council’s vision and priorities, but the city manager lacks the authority to build an administrative team to fulfill that responsibility. For instance, the city manager has no role in the appointment of the city attorney and the city clerk, and while the manager appoints the police and fire chiefs with the consent of the mayor and council, only the city council can fire them. Important, too, other key department heads and their subordinates are protected by the civil service system. These provisions undermine the city manager’s ability to build a cohesive administrative capacity. Equally important, they blur responsibility and diffuse accountability at the top of city government.
Eliminate civil service protection for all department heads and their deputy and assistant department heads, and change the charter to have all department heads report to the city manager. This would allow the city manager to hire and fire all department heads and to allow department heads to hire and fire their immediate subordinates, such as deputy or assistant directors. Because the mayor and council oversee and can fire the city manager, they can ensure the manager uses this authority appropriately.