If Mayor Dave Drovetta and soon-to-be interim administrator Mike Press truly want to make the city council more functional and effective, they can start by addressing the way some staff members and consultants talk to council members.
In short, it’s an abomination.
In every meeting, at least one staff member and now the city attorney lectures council member Larry Fotovich. We agree that Fotovich is nit-picky. He’s like a dog with a bone – once he has the taste in his mouth, he can’t let go. However, he is an official –duly elected by Gardner voters and has a right – a responsibility even – to ask whatever questions he wants. If constituents disagree with his demeanor or his line of questioning, it is up for them to decide at the ballot box – and preferably during a scheduled election, not a dog-and-pony show recall cooked up by his political opponents. It’s not up to city staff to approve or disapprove of his actions publicly.
In the meantime, the role of city staff and attorney is to answer council questions to the best of their ability without rolling their eyes, sighing or lecturing. (By the way, if the city attorney isn’t familiar with Gardner ordinances, it may be time to look for a new attorney.)
Drovetta intoned that one reason he wanted to hire an outside consultant to run the city for a while is because the city council is currently dysfunctional. We agree. But some of the function can easily be restored by the mayor himself. He needs to get some city employees and contractors in line. That means requiring them to treat council members with respect. The behavior of a select few staff members at council meetings has been absolutely unacceptable, and the mayor has it within his power to improve it.
In the meantime, we’ve also heard rumors that city staff has been told by some officials not to work with certain council members on certain matters. That is unacceptable. We shouldn’t have to remind city staff or city officials that (most) council members are duly elected public officials. Agree or disagree, they deserve a certain level of decorum. Disrespecting any of them publicly, is, in a way, disrespecting the people who pay the salaries of city employees. It should not be tolerated.
No one likes to see the amount of animosity and dissension we’ve been privy to at council meetings. It’s uncomfortable to witness and meetings last twice as long as they should. However, for city staff and now the city’s attorney to cast blame without examining the planks in their own eyes is disgraceful.
Press told council members during the Oct. 17 meeting that he has a number of priorities in working with the city of Gardner. One of those is to improve council/staff interaction. Telling employees – and that includes contracted employees – that they must treat all council members with due respect will go along way in that regard.
We look forward to it.