Friday, October 28th, 2016

So we got this memo


Reading through Laurel Walker’s article on the memo that was sent by Mayor Jeff Scrima to City Administrator Lori Luther, let me offer a few words.

Setting aside for the moment that a previous article in the Waukesha Freeman showed e-mail evidence the Luther did try to help Scrima in the transition. Setting aside for the moment that, in a battle of who is more trustworthy, Scrima would lose to Jon Lovitz. And let’s set aside all the bizarre behavior we have seen from the mayor so far.

If there was a communication problem, why would the mayor send a memo like this? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to walk over and talk to the City Administrator? You know, like an adult? At least he didn’t kick this memo out to the media first.

The memo really comes across as Scrima’s attempt to create a hostile enough work environment that Lori Luther would leave (if she didn’t sue). What Scrima either forgot or didn’t know, the City Administrator was not his employee. Ultimately she was answerable only to the Common Council. This isn’t the result of a change while Scrima was mayor. It’s been that way since Carol Lombardi was mayor.

I know people forget that I wrote extensively on this topic three years ago about how independent the city administrator is in Waukesha, and apparently the mayor never read those columns or blog posts (perhaps the city attorney could explain them to Scrima as well). The only people that can fire the City Administrator are the members of the Common Council. The only real change is that it only takes a majority of the Common Council to fire Luther, and that change came while Nelson was mayor. Her predecessor, Jim Payne, was much harder to get rid of. (Believe me, I wanted him gone.)

Scrima’s statement to Walker that this is somehow, “a direct undermining of our democracy” is either so much crap or else a sign that he still has no clue about the functions of the mayor and the city administrator.

“We now have a non-elected city administrator running the city, who is only accountable to the 15 aldermen – aldermen which are not at City Hall on a day-to-day basis to monitor what is going on,” Scrima told Walker. There is nothing “now” about it. It’s always been that way. And shame on Walker for not pointing that out.

As for who is there on a day-to-day basis to monitor what’s going on, word that I’m getting is that it’s not just the aldermen who aren’t there.

By the way, on the stupid clock issue: I did some checking (more than Laurel Walker did) and it turns out the clock in question had a tendency to fall down, and had for some time. Somebody tell Scrima to suck it up and buy a desk clock.

For the record, here’s Lori Luther’s statement.

We’re now entering the budget period. The mayor is about to discover he has no formal role in the process except at the very end when he can veto the budget. My suggestion is, if he really wants to accomplish anything, that he starts to make nice-nice with the aldermen and the City Administrator. At the last Common Council meeting the aldermen extended an olive branch. Now’s the time for the mayor to try to start his term anew.

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