Friday, August 23rd, 2019

Old battle, new complaint, same result


Publication: Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date: Feb 10, 2011; Section: Opinion; Page: 8A

Old battle, new complaint, same result

Scrima should accept fact Common Council controls city administrator

As Green Bay Packers fans are aware, when the replay referee announces that the ruling on the field stands, the coach does not get to throw another red flag to ask for another review.

Yet here we are, another lengthy discussion of the changes made by the Common Council to the position of the city administrator, all because the mayor still has not learned to work and play well with others.

Why now? Why at this time is the mayor bringing up the issue again? Is it because he wants to spend the rest of his term in a silly, childish squabble rather than actually achieve any of the goals he talked about during the mayoral election last year? Has he been watching too much CNN, and he thinks the city is going to explode in protests like Cairo?

Let’s review the most important point in this discussion. As the city attorney pointed out in his response to the mayor,

“The Common Council has never delegated its power to hire, discipline or terminate the employment of the City Administrator. The Mayor has never had the authority to terminate the City Administrator. Further, the Common Council has never delegated or in any way diminished its inherent power to establish or amend the terms and conditions of (Lori) Luther’s employment in conformance with the City Administrator’s employment agreement.”

Never. When Lori Luther’s predecessor left for the warmer climes of New Mexico, the debate began again over just who would be responsible for the hiring and the firing of the city administrator. Alderman Kathleen Cummings, to her credit, raised the issue at the council over the relative insulation from responsibility of the previous city administrator. Because of Cummings and others, the rule was changed from two-thirds of the Common Council being necessary to terminate the city administrator to only a majority.

There was never any serious consideration to make the position solely accountable to the mayor. (Ironically, the only place an argument was made for such a change was in this column.)

It would have been nice if the mayor had actually learned something about the parameters of his job and those of the city administration before he decided to run for office. Unfortunately, willful ignorance often comes with penalties. Too bad the rest of the city has to suffer for it.

So when the mayor decided to ask the city administrator to act in a manner contrary to the intent of the council on the issue of pursuing Great Lakes water, the council finally had to make the minor changes they did.

The previous set-up assumed that adults could work things out. Unfortunately, that would require the mayor to act like an adult.

The mayor did not veto the change in the terms of Luther’s employment, yet he still engages in passive-aggressive tantrums six months later. The mayor did not veto the council’s decision to pursue Great Lakes water, didn’t even speak against it, yet he continues a childish and ignorant tantrum. It’s an unbecoming pattern, and it’s far more embarrassing than the pink Crocs of his predecessor.

Sadly, I think the mayor can still do some good for this city. He recently brought up combining the city’s dispatch with the county’s dispatch. It’s an excellent idea.

The late Andy Kallin, a county supervisor and former mayoral candidate, raised that issue years ago, pointing out the amount of money that could be saved. I would like to see that government consolidation finally take place.

However, that would require the person trying to push the consolidation of the two dispatches to work with the Common Council, the city administrator, and even other local government leaders, to overcome local opposition.

Right now, who would even want to work with Mayor Scrima?

There are going to be very few changes in the Common Council after this spring’s elections. There is no great outrage driving the incumbents from power, despite the anger of the mayor’s dwindling number of supporters.

What the mayor sees now for membership is very similar to what he’s going to get. It’s time to stop the childishness and learn how to work with them.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)


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