Resolution opposes appointee protection

A resolution going before the City Council today recommends that Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr. not move some city staffers into civil service positions.

“We were trying to get at discouraging the mayor from moving people from political slots into civil service positions,” City Council President Leslie McLemore said. “The new mayor should have latitude to determine the members of his new team.”

Council members discussed the resolution during a work session on Monday and are expected to approve it today.

At stake are about two dozen political appointee slots, including the chief administrative officer, eight department heads and members of Johnson’s inner circle.

If the people in those positions were transferred to civil service positions, the new mayor could not fire them. Republican Rick Whitlow or Democrat Frank Melton will replace Johnson as mayor in July. Johnson, a two-term mayor, lost to Melton in the May 3 primary election.

“You can’t remove someone in a civil service position unless there’s just cause,” said McLemore, the Ward 2 councilman. “There’s due process. The Civil Service Commission would have to rule, and the person could then go to civil court.”

McLemore said he didn’t know if Johnson planned to shuffle the city-staff deck but said it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Johnson, who opposes the resolution, reminded the council he has authority over personnel matters.

“The council can express its desire, but the mayor has got to be the mayor,” Johnson said. “As I’ve indicated, I intend to serve until the last day of my term.”

The resolution, which does not prohibit the mayor from making appointments or changes, is a copy of one passed in 1989 when Mayor Dale Danks gave up the office to Kane Ditto. It likely will pass as the required majority sponsored the item. Those include Ben Allen, Ward 1; Bettye Dagner-Cook, Ward 5; Marshand Crisler, Ward 6; and McLemore.

McLemore said the resolution in no way is meant as a slap in the face to the mayor, only as an attempt to level the playing field for the next administration.

“It’s not legally binding, but it’s designed to reflect the spirit of the council,” he said.

Asked after the session to expand on the issue, Johnson said he would be available at a news conference today. The council meeting begins at 10 a.m. in City Hall.

Clarion Ledger
5/24/5