Iowa Municipal Professionals Institute Working with Elected Officials

Iowa Municipal
Professionals Institute
July 16, 2013
Working with Elected Officials
Agenda [1]
Session Opening
Welcome and self-introduction
Overview of the session
Class introduction
8:00 - 8:15
The “Other” Essential Skills for City Clerks
City Council Videos – Part I
Job descriptions
Personal story
Mayberry Goes Bankrupt
Case study 1: Council Member Conflict
Discussion on the case study
8:15 – 9:40
9:40 – 9:55
City Clerk’s Relationship with the City Council
City Council Videos – Part II
Elected Official and Professional Staff Relationships
Discussion on your expected behavior of the
Mayor and City Council members
Case Study 2: Bending the Rules
Discussion on the case study
9:55 – 11:05
11:05 – 11:15
Applying Skills to Working with Elected Officials
Tips for Working with the City Council
Mayberry Cow Thief
Case Study 3: Overbearing Council Member
Discussion on the case study
Ethics and Municipal Professionals
11:15 – 12:10
Lessons Learned
12:10 – 12:15
City of Urbandale
Job Description
Job Title:
City Clerk
City Manager’s Office
Supervisor: City Manager (Appointed by Mayor Civil Service
and City Council)
Not Applicable
Grade Level:
I, Management
February, 2006
Summary Description
Under the general direction of the City Manager, provides administrative oversight to all activities and operations of the Mayor
and Council. Coordinates and processes bi-weekly payroll and personnel related duties.
Routine Job Duties/Responsibilities
Prepares City Council agenda, official notices and publications; compiles for distribution packets of information for each city
council agenda item to be reviewed and acted upon during the Council meeting; completes and files legal proceedings and
assessments for capital projects. Attends Council meetings, operates camera and audio equipment, transcribes the minutes and
types the minutes following the meeting.
Prepares correspondence, arranges appointments related to official functions of elected officials; registers for conferences and
arranges travel, etc. as directed.
Processes new and renewing liquor licenses, cigarette, peddler, transient merchant and other permits.
Maintains permanent copies of adopted ordinances, approved resolutions, recorded deeds and easements, Council meeting
minutes, cassette tapes of Council meetings and various agreements and contracts.
Maintain and updates payroll information. Enters and processes time sheets. Transmits direct deposits, prints payroll
checks/stubs and distributes paychecks.
Stays current in areas pertinent to payroll, including but not limited to: wage laws, personnel policies, federal and state tax
laws, pension requirements and laws.
Provides oversight and coordination of the Civil Service Commission.
Establishes and maintains effective working relationships with City employees, municipal officials, commissions, other city,
county, state and federal departments/agencies, representatives of the media and the general public.
Assures that the City’s mission, goals and objectives are fully supported and initiated.
Performs other duties and responsibilities as assigned.
Periodic Job Duties/Responsibilities
Accepts nomination petitions of a candidate for City offices, coordinating with the County in municipal elections.
Notifies appointees to Boards and Commissions regarding tenure and duties of office.
Prepares various periodic reports for payroll, including, but not limited to: EEO-4 Reports, W4s,unemployment claims, etc.
Job Standards
Any combination of education and experience providing the required skill and knowledge is qualifying. Typical
qualifications would be equivalent to:
High School Diploma or equivalent
At least two (2) years of additional schooling preferably in accounting or payroll
Three (3) to Five (5) years of related work experience
Ability to handle confidential information in a sensitive manner
Ability to work under strict deadlines
Accurate math skills
Ten-key calculator by touch
Ability to operate audio/visual equipment
Effective oral and written communication skills, including interpersonal skills
Knowledge of wage laws, federal and state tax laws, pension requirements and laws helpful
Knowledge of audio/visual equipment, cameras and document reader
General knowledge of PCs and computer software and applications including word process,
and spreadsheeting
General knowledge of office equipment, including: telephone, calculator, photo copier, check
signer, facsimile, shredder, postage machine
Ability to obtain Certified Municipal Clerk certification within four years of employment
Ability to obtain Master Municipal Clerk certification within eleven years of employment
Notary designation within six (6) months of employment
Working Conditions:
Safety Hazards:
Long periods of sitting
Constant near sight acuity, color vision, field of vision, concentration
Frequent stooping, reaching, dexterity, talking, hearing, judgment and writing ability
Occasional kneeling, crouching, handling, far sight acuity
Note: This job description should not be construed to imply that these requirements are the exclusive standards of the position.
Incumbents will follow any other instructions, and perform any other related duties, as may be required. The employer has the
right to revise this job description at any time. The job description is not to be construed as a contract for employment.
Department Head
City Manager
City Clerk Skills and Attributes [4]
Place a check mark by the skills and attributes on your job description.
Place a check mark by each of the soft skills.
Skill or Attribute
Personal integrity
Administer payroll
Public service ethic
Prepare City Council packets
Sound judgment
Initiative and self-motivation
Manage city investments
Innovative and creative
Plan capital improvements
Sense of humor
Strategic planning
Build trust
Issue permits
Operational knowledge of municipal services
Cope with difficult people
Understand personality differences
Maintain files
Diplomatically disagree with elected officials
Resolve conflict
Hire, supervise and discipline employees
Empathy and compassion
Make decisions and solve problems
Take risks
General knowledge of state laws
Build teams
Establish a relationship with the City Council
Accept constructive criticism
Give credit and accept blame
Manage crises
Prepare the budget
Use office technology
Oversee risk management and insurance
Yes No
Soft Skills
Case Study 1 – Council Member Conflict [5]
Library Checkout Machine versus Salt Spreader
It is a Tuesday morning in December, the day of the monthly City Council meeting in your
city. The Librarian stops in City Hall, grabs a cup of coffee and enters your office. She has
bad news about the library’s outdated automatic book checkout machine. The part that
processes the bar code readings does not work and makes the machine useless.
The impact on the library is that all book check outs have to be done manually which is very
time consuming. Additionally, no automatic circulation records or reports will be generated
and inventory management will be difficult. The cost of replacing the machine is over
$5,000, since it will require new software and a conversion of the current system to the new
system. The current budget did not include funds to replace the checkout machine.
There was some good news last week when it was predicted that there would be a mild
winter. The Public Works Director reported on the story at a department directors’ meeting
and commented that if the weather holds, he may be able to delay the purchase of a new
salt spreader until next year. Ironically, the cost of a salt spreader is around $5,000.
When Council member Smith stopped in earlier in the day, you casually mentioned that the
checkout machine failed and there was potential savings on the salt spreader. At the City
Council meeting, Council member Smith informed the City Council about the failing of the
checkout machine and that it needed to be replaced immediately. He is a former Library
Board member and a strong advocate for the Library. He suggested the City Council take the
$5,000 that was budgeted for the salt spreader and purchase the checkout machine.
Council member Jones became upset at the thought of diverting funds for public works to
help the library. He owns an excavating company and has always supported the public
works operations. His face turned red, he raised his voice and said, “I can’t believe that this
is the first time we are hearing about this issue. Why don’t we have any background
information from the City Clerk? Why is it that another City Council member knows all about
this and the rest of us do not? All I can say is that we cannot compromise the safety of
drivers in our community so we can make it easier to check out books at the library.”
Council member Smith charged back, “And I’m not going to let us waste money on a salt
spreader that we do not even need.” Mayor Johnson saw that it was getting out of hand. He
tried to calm the group with, “Hey, cool it. Let’s talk this thing through.” At his comment,
everyone stopped and looked at each other.
1. What is your role when Council members have a conflict or disagreement?
2. What could you have done to avoid this situation?
3. Should you sit quietly and watch the conversation?
4. Should you take a leadership role?
5. What skills are needed in this situation?
6. How could you help in this situation?
Effective Relationships with Elected Officials [6]
All mayors and councilmembers can identify a reason that they decided to seek elected
office. All have a perception of who they are and what their purpose is on the City Council.
Below are some of the “flavors” of elected officials that may be found in local government.
Those with a mandate from the people
Those who want to serve their community; to simply “give back”
Those with an axe to grind; an agenda to pursue
Those who have some knowledge, experience or familiarity with the city; a technical
expertise in some area of local government
Those who distrust the city clerk or manager
Case Study 2 – Bending the Rules [7]
Whose water gets shut off and when?
You are finishing your fifth month on the job as City Clerk. The job is going well and is a step
up from your part-time job with the school system. This job is full-time and has health
insurance benefits. Since your husband is self-employed, the health insurance benefits are
critical to your family. Your six-month probationary period is coming soon and you are
hoping for a positive evaluation by the City Council.
It is the 20th of the month and the water bill delinquency report is coming off the printer. As
you read it, a name jumps out that you hoped would not be on the list. Myrna Green had
promised that she would come in and pay her water bill when she got her paycheck on the
15th. You went against your better judgment (and city policy) last month when you kept her
off the list even though she was more than one month behind in payments. Now the bill has
climbed over $100 and is growing every day.
The primary reason for taking a risk on Ms. Green is that she is the daughter of long time
Council member Wilbur Green. He has served on the city council or as mayor of your city for
nearly twenty years. Three of the other five members of the city council grew up with Council
member Green. They go on week-long hunting and fishing trips together each year and
follow every city council meeting with a trip to “Smoky’s,” the local tavern.
Council member Green has a history of bending the rules to his advantage. He also uses his
persuasion skills to convince his friends to support his actions. He stopped in the City Clerk’s
office last month regarding the bill. “You may want to give her a little more time to pay her
water bill. She just needs a little more time to get her finances straight.” You decided it
would be easier to leave her off the list and hope she gets it paid.
Larry from the Water Department just walked into City Hall and says, “Where’s the list of
customers that need to have their water shut off for this month? I want to get started soon
and be done before 5:00.” It is time to decide what to do about Myrna Green’s account.
1. What should the city clerk do?
2. Should she give Ms. Green another month to pay her bill?
3. What are the risks of having the water service shut off?
4. Is it fair for her to give special treatment to one customer over another?
Tips for Working with the Mayor and Council [8]
Skill or Attribute
Build relationships
Listen intently and intensely
Be patient
Show humility and self-confidence
Work behind the scenes
Always treat the Council with respect
Ask/understand elected officials’ motivations
for seeking elected office
Respect elected officials’ priorities
Make sure elected officials are not surprised
Learn to deal with difficult elected officials
Be disciplined in your follow-up on issues
Think strategically – have the big picture
Understand that your success is dependent
on the Council’s success
Treat the community with respect
Balance individual/neighborhood needs with
community interests and Council reactions
Get buy-in and community ownership on
issues before dropping decision on Council
Be absolutely honest and of highest integrity
Think greatness; raise the bar
Meet and consult with elected officials often
Seek feedback on your work
Help Mayor and Council members navigate
technical/legal compliance issues
Be aware that you represent the city
Insist on permission to take smart risks
Treat individuals with respect – practice
inclusion and even-handedness
Remember that you are not elected – leave
the politics and policy-making to politicians
My Top 5
Case Study 3 – The Overbearing Councilmember [9]
The Slippery Sidewalk – balancing priorities and expectations
Its 3:00 p.m. and the clock is ticking. You are scrambling to put together the packet for
Monday’s City Council meeting. The City Council agenda packet needs to be ready for
distribution to the City Council by 4:30 p.m. since Council member Wilson is leaving for a
weekend trip and would like to review his packet while he is gone. You also have important
plans to attend a high school class reunion that evening in a city two hours away.
In walks Council member Kimball. He is a retired insurance agent who has been on the City
Council for two years. He loves to talk and with his wide variety of interests, has an opinion
on nearly everything. Since he joined the City Council, the meetings have taken over three
hours, rather than the prior ninety minute meetings. Almost no meetings go by without an
item being pulled from the consent agenda for discussion. He raises liability issues on most
construction projects and all community festivals.
He plopped into the chair across from you, makes himself comfortable and says, “I just
came from the coffee shop and I think we have a problem. The water fountain in Central
Park sits too close to the sidewalk. Kids are playing with it and water is spilling onto the
sidewalk with no place to go. Since it is in the shade, it does not dry quickly and has the
potential of making the sidewalk slippery. You know that creates a liability for the city.”
The polite smile on your face does not reveal what is going through your mind. Of all the
days, he has to come into the office to talk about this. You have eight council packets on
your desk that are half assembled. The copy machine has the treasurer’s report in the tray.
The city engineer has copies of the plans and specifications for a sanitary sewer project
waiting to be picked up at the front desk. If there is any delay, Council member Wilson will
not get his packet on time and you will arrive late at the class reunion.
1. What should you do?
2. Can you take the risk of offending Council member Kimball?
3. What is the expectation of the other City Council members?
4. Does the type of relationship you have with Council member Kimball have an impact on
your approach?
5. What skills are needed in this situation?
Real World Ethics [10]
Dorothy is the President of Hometown Bank and works hard to maintain positive working
relationships with clients, other businesses and city officials in the City of Hometown. In
fact, she frequently invites guests to the Bank’s luxury box at the professional baseball
stadium in Hometown. Hometown Bank is bidding on an investment contract with the City,
and Dorothy invites the city clerk and her husband to join her for one of the sold out playoff
games, drinks and food in the luxury box.
a) Can the City Clerk attend the game?
b) The fair market value of the ticket, the food, drink and use of the luxury box in $100
per person. How much should the City Clerk pay in order to attend the game with her
Katie, the deputy city clerk, has been asked to host a political fundraiser to re-elect her longtime friend to the local school board.
a) Can Katie help out her friend and host the fundraiser? Should she?
b) Can Katie ask her co-workers at the City to attend the fundraiser?
c) What if the fundraiser is in support of a city income tax levy instead of a school board
A supplier who provides billing services to the City wants to sponsor a demonstration and
training session for some new software. The session must be held in the supplier’s facilities
in Chicago. Because finances are tight, the supplier has offered to pay for the City officials’
travel, room and board.
a) Can the officials accept?
b) What if the contract with the supplier includes such training?
c) The city clerk decides that this training is very important to the city and pays his own
way to go to Chicago and be trained on use of this software. Can the supplier
contract with the city clerk separately to train other city clerks in the state?
A personal investment firm located in your city has offered a new free service to all police,
fire and EMS personnel. As a show of support for all the fine service these individuals
provide to the public, the firm is willing to provide free estate planning and wills. The value of
the service ranges from $1,000 - $3,000. The investment firm does no formal business
with the city. Is this OK?
a) Yes, because the benefit goes to individuals and there is no connection between the
work they perform and the investment firm.
b) No. This is a benefit being offered to only a class of employees and not to the entire
population. In addition, public employees should not accept gifts from businesses
located within the community.
Courtesy of ICMA Ethics Center
ICMA Code of Ethics [11-12]
International City/County Management Association Code of Ethics
Tenet 1
Be dedicated to the concepts of effective and democratic local government by responsible
elected officials and believe that professional general management is essential to the
achievement of this objective.
Tenet 2
Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by government and maintain a
constructive, creative, and practical attitude toward local government affairs and a deep
sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant
Tenet 3
Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal
relationships in order that the member may merit the respect and confidence of the elected
officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public.
Tenet 4
Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best
interests of all people.
Tenet 5
Submit policy proposals to elected officials; provide them with facts and advice on matters
of policy as a basis for making decisions and setting community goals; and uphold and
implement local government policies adopted by elected officials.
Tenet 6
Recognize that elected representatives of the people are entitled to the credit for the
establishment of local government policies; responsibility for policy execution rests with the
Tenet 7
Refrain from all political activities which undermine public confidence in professional
administrators. Refrain from participation in the election of the members of the employing
legislative body.
Tenet 8
Make it a duty continually to improve the member's professional ability and to develop the
competence of associates in the use of management techniques.
ICMA Code of Ethics [11-12]
Tenet 9
Keep the community informed on local government affairs; encourage communication
between the citizens and all local government officers; emphasize friendly and courteous
service to the public; and seek to improve the quality and image of public service.
Tenet 10
Resist any encroachment on professional responsibilities, believing the member should be
free to carry out official policies without interference, and handle each problem without
discrimination on the basis of principle and justice.
Tenet 11
Handle all matters of personnel on the basis of merit so that fairness and impartiality govern
a member's decisions, pertaining to appointments, pay adjustments, promotions, and
Tenet 12
Seek no favor; believe that personal aggrandizement or profit secured by confidential
information or by misuse of public time is dishonest.