Outside of questions of illegal and ethical behavior of some people on the City Council, Jarrard and Davis’ most powerful reprimand was about how “score settling” has negatively affected efficient, day-to-day work of Blue Ridge. “Score settling” has shut down communication among the Council and between the Council and city employees. “Score settling” has shut down efficient and effective management of Blue Ridge
The biggest area where inappropriate communication affects the daily life of Blue Ridge residents is through city workers not being able to do their jobs well. After questioning city employees about their jobs, Jarrard and Davis report, “Many interviewees [city employees] indicated that they felt the City of Blue Ridge faces significant challenges to being efficiently and professionally run due to the lack of communication and/or hostile communication amongst Council Members and the Mayor.” Also, city employees felt that they were being drawn into a fight that is not theirs. The employees, like most Americans, hope to maintain their jobs for a long time which means that they will serve under a different City Council after each election cycle. Now, though, “they are in the middle of what appears to be an ongoing power struggle.” Council Members and the Mayor, all six individuals are supervisors of all city employees, confuse city employees about what employees need to do and the order of importance of the task by giving different types of instructions. Besides from making the city run ineffectively, the communication breakdown makes the staff fearful of losing their jobs and stymies opportunities to be publically proud of what they do. Jarrard and Davis admonish the Council to work with together with city employees in a manner that is “civil, professional and based on factual inquiries that serve no other purpose than to understand the City’s day-to-day business and pending or future agenda items.”
The Mayor is also stymied in her ability to effectively present issues and solutions to the Council and Blue Ridge residents. Jarrard and Davis say that the Mayor’s updates on City business to the Council should be routine, thorough and presented in open-session during City Council meetings. They acknowledge, as well, that the Mayor is not able to do this because some members of the Council use the Mayor’s regular reporting of City information as a weapon to point out the deficiencies in the Mayor performance. Jarrard and Davis use the word bludgeon, using a short, thick stick with a loaded end to attack someone, to describe how some Council members use the Mayor’s updates against her. Other uncivil and unbecoming behavior that the Mayor faces when trying to communicate openly is threatening and abusive emails and inappropriate comments made during open meetings.
In addition to using collegial, professional and courteous communication behavior, Jarrard and Davis suggest improvements to the Mayor-Council-Citizen information stream which are easier to set up than changing entrenched behavior. Currently, there is nothing in the City Charter that outlines a regular process by which the Council receives updates from the Mayor. Jarrard and Davis suggest a written policy which declares the frequency of the Mayor’s updates, the required contents, the format (written or verbal) and that the updates take place in open City Council meetings.
Jarrard and Davis imply that it is the responsibility of all elected City officials to speak out about the state of communication among the City Council. Jarrard and Davis remind Council Members that being quiet so that you are not involved in personal vendettas that have nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the city means that you are also responsible in harming the city by developing citizens’ distrust of elected officials and allowing the city to be poorly run.
Jarrard and Davis’ strongest recommendation to improve lines of communication is to hire a City Manager. City employees would feel more secure in their jobs and required because only one person, the City Manager, would give them directions about their job. The employees would be out of the middle of the Council’s political infighting. Also, a City Manager would have the time to timely inform the Council about the day-to-day functions of the City. The Mayor and Council Members, all who have jobs beyond their part-time positions of running Blue Ridge, have problems timely communicating because they simply don’t have enough hours in the day. Jarrard and Davis’ short-term solution is additional training in conflict resolution for local governments. They state, “The City’s interests must be first priority; personal interests or score-settling have no place in government service.”
See related posts: