By Bob Robertson
Published August 05, 2008
A reorganization to provide the Mayor with assistance in the form of a new Chief of Staff is welcome news.
The Mayor's post in Hamilton is increasingly complicated and engaging a political policy adviser is most important and appropriate.
However, it is also important to ensure the incumbent understands their role.
First, the incumbent is an "employee" of the City and can contractually bind the City. As a result, he/she must understand the legal framework within which the City operates and be aware of city policies with regards to contracts and hiring requirements.
In recent years, there have been examples of contracts being "sole-sourced" to companies and individuals by the Chief of Staff in the Mayor's office. Also, there has been an example of hiring the Mayor's campaign manager to a City contract without competition.
Again, a former Chief of Staff was an advocate for this contract. Both of these are simply examples of recent actions which were clearly contradictory to existing City policies.
Second, the incumbent must understand the role of the City Manager and the Corporate Management Team. It is not helpful to have the Chief of Staff provide direction to municipal staff at any level of the organization.
In contrast to the political advice provided to the Mayor from advisers in his office, the senior municipal managers must provide apolitical advice to all of the Council.
In the event that senior managers feel threatened in performing their duties advice to council simply becomes "non-controversial" or "politically correct". Given the nature of the problems facing Hamilton this type of limited advice is at best inappropriate.
Finally, given the importance of the post in the general operation of the City guidelines (a job description) for the post must be developed and it must be clear that the position will be within the oversight of the Ethics Commissioner.