Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the day “February 14, 2012”

The Power of the Mayor, Myth or Reality?

By Dave Thomas

Good morning.  I wish the Citizens of Modesto, including our friends at the BEE would read and understand the underlying law of our City.  I have copied and pasted parts of the Modesto City Charter.  Please note that, contrary to today’s story, “Marsh: No big changes just yet”, there are certain facts:

1.  The City Mayor has absolutely no “…authority to prepare the (City) budget”.
2.  Neither the Mayor nor Council Members have any authority to place items on the Meeting Agenda.
3.  Neither the Mayor nor Council Members have any authority to speak to, influence, or request action from any City employee.  
4.  The City Manager is solely responsible for the executive and administrative duties of the City, and no one can interfere or influence him.  

Simply put, the Mayor is the ceremonial and political leader of our City, akin to a highly paid cheerleader.  He has absolutely no power or authority to DO anything.  At least, he can do  only that which the City Manager tells him to do.  The Council has no power or authority at all.  The closest you can say about the Mayor/Council is that they can refuse to pass Agenda items requested by the City Staff.  Since when has that happened?

Thus, City management will not change from what the City Manager wants to do.  At best, the Council can fire a City Manager, then hire yet another well trained bureaucrat who will continue do what ever he wants to.

Thank you, Dave

2-1.03 – Agenda.

In order to facilitate the orderly conduct of the business of the Council, the City Clerk shall be notified no later than 5:00 p.m. of the Wednesday immediately preceding a regular Council meeting of all reports, communications, ordinances, resolutions, contract documents or other matters to be submitted to the Council at such meeting. Immediately thereafter the City Clerk shall arrange a list of such matters according to the order of business and furnish each member of the Council, the City Manager, and the City Attorney and each department head with a copy of the same prior to the Council meeting and as far in advance of the meeting as time for preparation will permit.

The City Clerk shall mark with the word “Consent” those items on the agenda regarding which it can reasonably be expected that there will be no discussion by members of the City Council, the City staff or interested persons in the audience. At any time prior to the meeting or at any time during the meeting prior to Council action on the consent agenda any member of the City Council or the City staff or any interested person may request that a consent item be removed from the list of consent items, such item shall be taken up for consideration and disposition separately from the remainder of the consent items not so removed. In order to make clear that the vote on consent items is about to occur, the City Clerk shall read out the title or brief summary of each item marked “Consent” on the agenda to those present at the Council meeting. The presiding officer will immediately upon the conclusion of this reading advise those present that the appropriate time has come to speak on any item so read out from the consent calendar. Those wishing to speak will then confirm the consent item number or numbers they wish to address. Any such item shall be separately taken up for consideration in numerical order prior to the Unfinished Business portion of the agenda. All other consent items, whether previously removed from the consent calendar or not, shall then be considered at one time by a roll call vote after a motion duly made and seconded.

(Ord. 1084-N.S., amended by Ord. 313-C.S., Ord. 444-C.S., Ord. 1130-C.S., Ord. 1896-C.S., Ord. 2892-C.S., § 1, and Ord. 3094-C.S., § 1, effective 8-6-98)

2-1.04 – The Presiding Officer.

The Mayor shall be the President of the Council and shall preside at all its meetings and perform such other duties consistent with his office as may be imposed by the Council or by vote of the people. He shall be entitled to, and must vote, but shall possess no veto power. He shall be recognized as the official head of the City for all ceremonial purposes by the courts for the purpose of serving civil process, and by the Governor for military purposes. In the time of public danger or emergency, he may, with the consent of the Council, take command of the police, maintain order and enforce laws.

The Mayor shall preserve strict order and decorum at all regular and special meetings of the Council. He shall state every question coming before the Council, call for the vote, announce the decision of the Council on all subjects and decide all questions of order, subject, however, to an appeal to the Council, in which event a majority vote of the Council shall govern and conclusively determine such question of order. He shall sign all ordinances adopted by the Council during his presence. In the event of the absence of the Mayor, the Vice-Mayor shall sign ordinances as then 


2-1.22 – Council Not to Interfere in Administrative Service.

Neither the Council nor any of its committees or members shall direct, request or attempt to influence, either directly or indirectly, the appointment of any person to office or employment by the City Manager or in any manner interfere with the City Manager or prevent him from exercising his own judgment in the appointment of officers and employees in the administrative service. Except for the purpose of inquiry, the Council and its members shall deal with the administrative service solely through the City Manager; and neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any of the subordinates of the City Manager, either publicly or privately.


There shall be a City Manager who shall be the chief executive officer and head of the Administrative Branch of the City government. The City Manager shall be chosen on the basis of the person’s executive and administrative qualifications with special reference to the person’s actual experience in, or the person’s knowledge of accepted practices with respect to the duties of the office as hereinafter set forth. No member of the Council shall be eligible for appointment to the office of City Manager during the term for which the member shall have been elected or appointed, nor within one (1) year thereafter. The City Manager need not be a resident of the City or State at the time of appointment, but during the City Manager’s tenure of office, the City Manager shall reside within the City.
When a vacancy occurs, the Mayor shall nominate at least two (2) candidates for Council consideration for appointment to the position of City Manager. The Mayor may express to the Council a preference among final candidates. The Council shall appoint the City Manager for an indefinite term and may remove the City Manager by a majority vote of its members; provided, however, that the City Manager shall not be removed from office during or within a period of ninety (90) days next succeeding the election of a member of the Council. The purpose of this provision is to allow any newly elected member of the Council to observe the actions and ability of the City Manager in the performance of powers and duties of this office.
(As amended November 7, 1989, and February 5, 2008)


The City Manager shall be the chief administrative officer and head of the administrative branch of the City government. The City Manager shall be responsible to the Council for the proper administration of all affairs of the City and to that end, subject to the personnel provisions of this Charter, the City Manager shall have power and shall be required to:
(a)  Appoint and, when necessary for the good of the service, discipline and remove all officers and employees of the City except as otherwise provided by this Charter, and except as the City Manager may authorize the head of any department or office to appoint or remove subordinates in such department or office. The City Manager may also authorize the head of any department, including deputy directors, police captains and fire battalion chiefs, or other city employees as designated by ordinance, to recommend and impose discipline in accordance with this Charter.
(b)  Prepare the draft budget annually and submit it to the Mayor and Council, prepare the proposed budget annually and submit it to the Mayor and Council and be responsible for its administration after its adoption by the Council, prepare all other necessary budget documents, and prepare and submit to the Mayor and Council the Capital and Operating Mid-Year Budget Report.
(c)  Prepare and submit to the Council within ninety (90) days of the end of the fiscal year, a complete report on the finances and administrative activities of the City for the preceding year.
(d)  Review procedures relating to the assessment, levy and collection of ad valorem property taxes and make recommendations regarding the same to the Council if deemed appropriate.
(e)  Establish a centralized purchasing system for all City offices, departments and agencies.
(f)  Establish and enforce specifications for supplies, materials and equipment required by the City.
(g)  Cause all supplies purchased by the City to be inspected and a determination made that the same comply with specifications.
(h)  Prepare rules and regulations governing the contracting for, purchasing, storing, inventory, distribution or disposal of all supplies, materials and equipment required by any office, department or agency of the City government and recommend them to the Council for its adoption by ordinance. Preference shall be given to the purchase of supplies, materials and equipment from local merchants, quality and price being equal.
(i)  Enforce the laws of the State pertaining to the City, the provisions of this Charter and the ordinances, franchises and rights of the City.
(j)  Keep the Council advised of the financial conditions and future needs of the City and make such recommendations on any matter as the City Manager may deem desirable.
(k)  Make and execute contracts on behalf of the City involving budgeted or appropriated expenditures which do not exceed the amount specified by ordinance of the City Council.
(l)  Appoint advisory boards, without compensation, to assist the City Manager in the performance of the City Manager’s duty, if the City Manager deems it necessary.
(m)  Interchange employees between or among departments if the City Manager deems it proper so to do.
(n)  Immediately upon taking office, and annually thereafter, inventory and place a value on all real estate, buildings, furniture and fixtures, supplies and movable property of every kind and nature belonging to the City; and to require each officer or department head to inventory the same or any portion thereof. One (1) copy of such inventory shall be filed with the Council and one (1) with the auditor.
(o)  Be responsible for the custody and control of all City property, the custody and control of which has not otherwise been provided for by this Charter.
(p)  Perform such other duties as may be prescribed by this Charter or required of the City Manager by the Council not inconsistent with this Charter.
(q)  Sign all contracts, deeds and other documents on behalf of the City when authorized to do so by the Council or by this Charter.
(r)  The City Manager shall have the authority to transfer equipment and supplies between departments, and with the approval of the Council, sell obsolete, and unused or surplus personal property of the City.
(s)  The City Manager shall be accorded a seat at the Council table and shall be entitled to participate in the deliberations of the Council, but shall not have a vote.
(t)  The Council shall have the right to instruct the City Manager in matters of policy and the City Manager shall be responsible for implementing such Council policy. Any action, determination or omission of the City Manager shall be subject to review by the Council, but no such action, determination or omission shall be overruled or modified by a vote of less than four-sevenths of the members of such Council.
(u)  The City Manager, pursuant to Section 725 of the Charter, shall direct creation of draft written statements of Policy for each City department which is under the administration of the City Manager.
(v)  The City Manager annually shall conduct an independent, written performance evaluation of each head of a city department which is under the administration of the City Manager. Such performance evaluation shall include, without limitation, an evaluation of the department head’s performance in implementing the Council’s Statement of Policy for that department. The City Manager shall provide such performance evaluations to the Council for their review pursuant to Section 725 of the Charter. After such Council review, the Mayor may comment on the performance evaluation pursuant to Section 601(m) of the Charter.
(As amended April 20, 1971, November 4, 1980, November 7, 1989, and February 5, 2008)

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