MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Opinion

March 19, 2013

New rules help city communicate

— City councilors did the right thing in streamlining communications rules between councilors and city employees.

In the past, Muskogee’s City Charter and city ordinances required elected officials to deal with city employees through the city manager.

Councilors worked to change the rules governing communications because they felt they were unintentionally violating provisions in the charter if they talked to city employees.

New rules approved this week by city councilors loosen some restrictions.

The new rules will ease lines of communications so city councilors can ask questions and receive answers from city employees without going through the city manager.

Councilors have questions that can be answered more quickly and efficiently by going to city department heads, supervisors and front-line employees.

This could allow for better preparation for councilors before meetings.

In the past there may have been some concerns that city employees would feel intimidated by city councilors. After all, their boss — the city manager — answers to, and is hired and fired by the Council.

The new rules, however, do not change provisions restricting communications between councilors and city employees regarding labor negotiations.

This keeps councilors from interfering with the city manager’s job during such negotiations. Too many people involved in the process would surely complicate the process.

While councilors remain forbidden to discuss labor negotiations with city employees, no such rule forbids citizens — city employees — from discussing anything with their elected officials.

This puts the responsibility on councilors to listen to constituents without crossing a line into actual negotiations.  

The new rules make for better city government.

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