Board discusses changing Town Charter to further define mayor’s responsibilities

The Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently discussed the possibility of changing the Town Charter to further define the mayor’s duties and responsibilities.
The discussion was conducted during the portion of the May 21 meeting designated for reports from board members.
Declaring that a future mayor needs some “tie-downs” regarding his responsibilities at the Town Hall, Alderman Billy Ray Morris said his “full-time job” should be representing Oakland.
“He needs to have a set vacation,” Morris noted. “And if he goes out of town for a couple of weeks, it needs to be tied down where the aldermen can say, ‘What you’re doing is for the city.’”
When Mayor Chris Goodman expressed confusion about his use of the phrase “tied down,” Morris said he was talking about the mayor “doing his work.” He said the Charter should be amended to prohibit a future mayor from having another full-time job.
In response to a question by Morris, Town Attorney Richard Myers said the Charter does address the mayor’s duties.
“But what you’re talking about in terms of a second job is in an ordinance, not in the Charter,” he told the alderman. “There’s an ordinance that talks about any other jobs that conflict with the performance of duties.”
Myers said The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service calls Oakland a “weak-mayor” form of government, because all the power resides in the local legislative body. Although the Charter states that the mayor is the chief executive officer and that he has “general supervisory powers,” Myers said neither it nor the town’s ordinances “expressly lay out” what that means.
“So, according to MTAS, it means nothing,” he noted. “The mayor has no power. I think that’s a ridiculous interpretation.”
Myers said MTAS consistently produces opinions that are “really not tied into common sense.” So, the board has to determine what it means to have a mayor who is the chief executive and has supervisory powers.
“It seems clear that you know it means you’ve got somebody who’s running the town as an executive, who’s got the administrative powers,” he told the aldermen. “And that’s what you expect your mayor to do.”
Myers noted that only the board, not an individual alderman, can exercise executive and administrative power.
“The only way you could act on that power is by a public meeting with notice and a majority vote,” he said. “You try to do only once a month by a majority vote the stuff that needs to be done every day, and that’s extremely cumbersome.”
If it wants to be efficient, Myers said, the board has to delegate that power to someone. And the Charter “presupposes” that it is the mayor.
Goodman noted that, regardless of whether someone is sitting in the Town Hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or is out visiting other communities, technology “ties” him in so that he is “never that far away.”
“You can tie someone to a desk,” he said. “But will he really serve you the best he can in that manner?”
Goodman told the aldermen that the “last thing” they want to do is to stifle the “creativeness” of someone who has been elected to run the town by telling him that he must sit at his desk 10 hours a day.
“City business is done in a lot of forms and a lot of places,” the mayor concluded. “So, as we think about changes in the Charter and even new ordinances, I just caution us all to make sure it’s something that’s really going to allow whoever is sitting in any of these seats to truly perform their job to the best of their ability.”