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Council accused of ‘stepping on toes’

By Staff | Oct 13, 2008

The honeymoon is over.

Just two months into her new position as Blue Earth city administrator, Kathy Bailey sent a memo to the city council asking them to back off certain items and let her take care of business.

Bailey’s memo was read at the city council work session last Monday. In it she asks the council to follow the processes and procedures which are in place.

She cited several examples of council members bypassing the chain of command and giving orders to city staff, or promising citizens certain items will be done.

“Not only is it confusing to staff, but also to citizens,” her memo says. “Whose orders should they follow, and what are the priorities?”

Bailey says while the transition between administrators was being made, the natural tendency is for council members to step in and handle many items. Now she wants them to back off.

“I feel as though my toes are being stepped on,” she told the council. She urged them to bring everything through her office, and not do it on their own.

“This could get to be a liability for the city, because council members can’t operate on their own; they need to conduct business as a group, at a public meeting,” she explains.

At least one council member, Glenn Gaylord, was upset by the memo.

“I have seen your examples concerning council members investigating problems and concerns,” Gaylord says. “Isn’t that our job?’

Bailey repeated that many of those decisions must be agenda items and voted on at a meeting.

Gaylord went on to say, “I think this whole memo is ridiculous. I don’t care for it at all.

Bailey responded it is important she know about all concerns and complaints in the city, and it is her job to handle these.

“A citizen may talk to a council member about a concern and think we are moving forward on it, when I don’t know a thing about it and it is not on the council’s agenda,” she said. “These items need to be brought back to the whole council and administration.

Some of Bailey’s examples included council members ordering staff to install an air conditioner, issue nuisance letters, issue a citation for a bonfire, and meeting with a citizens group concerning the animal pound.Her memo also listed council members soliciting cost estimates for projects not approved by the council.

Bailey called this conduct disrespectful of the administrator.

“The council can listen to citizens and staff but direct the person to the administrator,” she wrote in the memo.

Recycling funding

In other business, the council voted to fund a recycling drop-off center in the city.

The site would be used by both city and township residents.

Currently, Jo Daviess Township funds a drop-off site in Guckeen. Blue Earth Township has no site.

The council felt it was important to have a site located within the city limits.

In addition, the council also decided to lower the rate charged to city residents for curbside recycle pickup.

That rate is currently at $2.77 per month. The rate will be lowered to $1.77 per month.

Bailey says the city would be eligible for $12,000 in SCORE funds to cover costs of recycling in the city.

In the past the city was not eligible, because the cost of recycling was covered by the charge to residents.