Arlington tweaks mayor’s duties

By Brian Kelly

Herald Writer

ARLINGTON — The city council will clean up its municipal code and clear away confusion over employee contracts with five new ordinances, including one that defines the mayor’s job at city hall.

Although the changes are billed as housekeeping items, the moves should help silence the squabble over who has the authority — the mayor or the city council — to hire Arlington’s top managers. State law gives mayors the power to hire and fire in council-mayor forms of government. But there has been some confusion in the past on whether Mayor Bob Kraski should seek the council’s confirmation on his top hires.

One of the ordinances that the council will consider at their meeting today will make clear that each side has a role in such decisions.

"We’re acknowledging that it’s both," said city administrator Kristin Banfield.

"The mayor has the absolute power to hire and fire under the mayor-council form of government," she said.

But the city council controls the city’s purse strings, approving the spending of public dollars. That includes signing off on the city’s bills, as well as its employee contracts.

Currently, just the city attorney and fire chief have employment contracts. The council will consider a contract for its police chief and its development services director at its next meeting, while a contract for the city administrator is still in the works.

The draft ordinance that defines the mayor’s responsibilities says the mayor has the power to appoint nine key managers, including the city administrator, police chief and fire chief.

Although the draft ordinance says the hires are subject to council confirmation, Banfield said the ordinance would probably be changed to a lesser standard; one that allows the mayor to install a new manager after simply "consulting" with the council. Without that change, the ordinance defining the mayor’s duties will conflict with other proposed laws specific to certain manager positions.

The proposed ordinances would also make it harder for the mayor to fire city managers. The new rules say the city administrator, for example, could be removed by the mayor only with a concurrent majority vote by the city council. A similar provision is also included in a proposed law defining the role of Arlington’s airport manager.

Those additions to the city’s municipal code will help protect city managers from the ill winds of political change.

"It’s an added protection for staff," Banfield said.

You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to

Arlington City Council meeting, 7 p.m. today, board meeting room, Roosevelt Building, 315 N. French St.

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