The letter in the April 24 edition under the title “City manager search” is an example of uninformed criticism of Clarkston’s city government, apparently motivated by hostility and dislike of anyone who holds political office and a cynical assumption that these folks do whatever they want regardless of the law.
Close review of the language of the city charter, quoted in the letter, shows that the city council did nothing wrong, let alone “illegal.” First, the charter prohibits elected officers from holding an appointed city office. That didn’t happen here. Carol Eberhardt resigned her council seat before becoming city manager. Second, it prohibits a former elected officer from holding a compensated city office for one year after that officer’s term. That did happen here. But there is an exception to this rule. The exception can be “authorized by … five members of the Council.” Before deciding on appointing a city manager, the council voted to authorize this exception. Thus Ms. Eberhardt’s appointment was authorized by the city charter.
The premise of the criticism is that you can’t change a law after the fact and authorize something that was a violation when it happened. But that’s not what happened here. The charter allows the council to invoke an exception to the general rule. The council invoked the exception before it decided who would be appointed city manager. The claim that “the council broke the law the moment they publicly announced they were considering [Eberhardt] for the job” is wrong. The charter doesn’t prohibit considering a council member for appointment. So considering someone for whom a future waiver might be needed is not “illegal.” And ultimately the council can waive the prohibitions by a supermajority vote, which it did.
To characterize the city manager selection process as “shenanigans” belittles those who worked in good faith on this important appointment. The council considered 12 applicants, interviewed five, and heard presentations from the final two. Most of the process (unfortunately not all of it) was done publicly. Anyone could have looked at the applications and had their voice heard at various public meetings. I did that. For example, I suggested (and the council agreed) adding a candidate to the interview schedule. I’m no apologist for all that our council does and I’ve been critical of many things, both while on the council and off. But criticisms should be based in fact. The facts don’t support the criticism here.