Letters to the Editor

Council lacks power to take action

North Myrtle Beach residents have asked me, as mayor, why their City Council does not take direct action on some city personnel issues. The quick answer is that, while City Council has the authority to hire and fire a city manager, a city attorney and a city judge, it does not have the authority to administer other personnel matters.

There are three forms of city government: mayor-council, which gives a mayor the authority to make unilateral decisions, including those personnel-related; council, which places all legislative and administrative powers in the hands of a council, and allows a council to hire an administrator to assist it; and council-manager, which vests legislative and policy authority in a council, and authority over personnel and day-to-day operations in a city manager. According to the International City/County Management Association, 48 percent of America's city/county governments adhere to the council-manager form.

North Myrtle Beach residents adopted the council-manager form of government. City Council is responsible for establishing policy, passing local ordinances, voting appropriations and developing an overall vision for the city. Each council member, including the mayor, has one vote.

The city manager functions like a corporate chief executive officer, providing professional management to Council. The city manager reports to City Council, but all other employees, with the exception of the city attorney and city judge, report to the city manager. The city manager makes and implements all decisions regarding personnel. He also has final authority over responses to information requests made to the city through the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

Although this form of government can frustrate those who would like their City Council to take personnel and/or information matters into their own hands for instant remedy of one sort or another, it is very effective at ensuring that personnel decisions are not subject to political agendas, which, as we all know, are subject to change. This enables the city to attract and retain quality employees who keep on serving residents and visitors in their positive, effective manner, despite the news whirlwind that sometimes circulates around City Hall.

When it comes to city personnel issues that have achieved a high profile, you can be sure that City Council members, like members of the public, have their own strong opinions. Council members are free to express their opinions to the city manager and city attorney, and many of us do. However, the bottom line is that council members are not empowered to take direct action on city personnel matters.

The writer is mayor of North Myrtle Beach.