Brittney Raby – Staff Writer
Nearly 10 years ago, the Town of Franklin transitioned to a council-manager form of government. The transition happened in 2008 under the leadership of then Town Manager Sam Greenwood. By definition, a council-manager plan is a method of municipal government in which legislative and policy-determining powers are held by an elected council that employs a city manager who is responsible to the council for city administration.
“The board sets policy, the manager carries out that policy, and it is the job of the mayor to advise the board and manager on those policies,” said Franklin Mayor Bob Scott. “Technically, no, the mayor can’t set policy, but the mayor can make simple requests of the manager and board.”
At the Town of Franklin Board of Aldermen annual retreat last month, Alderman Joe Collins, who has previously served on the town board as both mayor and alderman, suggested that for the benefit of the new board members, a clear definition and establishment of roles and responsibilities between aldermen and mayor be established.
During the board retreat, Alderman Collins asked Mayor Scott about an email Scott sent to Macon County Manager Derek Roland regarding a parking issue downtown.
“Isn’t parking downtown something enforced by this board and something members of the board of aldermen decide?” Alderman Collins asked Mayor Scott. “If there was an issue regarding parking, I think it should have been brought to the board rather than something handled by the mayor. I just think it would be appropriate since we have several new members, to ensure that the responsibilities of this board and the mayor are clearly defined.”
Scott’s email, which was sent to Roland under the subject line, “parking problem,” stated, “I hate to stir up anything … but I have been receiving complaints about sheriff’s employees parking on the town’s parking lot adjacent to the Sheriff’s Sub-Station and NCDMV offices. The complainants (business owners and residents on Main Street) said they do not understand why county employees are not parking in the parking lot owned by the county at the corner of Patton Ave. and E. Palmer.
Thank you for your consideration in this matter. I hate to bring this up but parking is becoming a downtown issue as we continue to grow and local businesses are expanding.”
Collins noted that while he appreciates the concern of downtown businesses owners, if the parking on the backside of town was in fact an issue, it should be something addressed and handled by the board rather than mayor.
Scott argued that his email to the county manager was nothing more than a simple request. Scott admitted that if he was ordering something be done or trying enforce any type of parking ordinance, then he would be overstepping his bounds as mayor, but by putting in a request, he was within his purview as mayor.
Another issue concerning the role of mayor occurred along Main Street when Mayor Scott was involved in an incident with a deputy with the Macon County Sheriff’s Department. According to an incident report on file with the MCSO, Deputy Cody Mitchell witnessed a man ride a moped on the sidewalk across the street from the Macon County Courthouse. Deputy Mitchell approached the driver of the moped, who had stopped to talk with Mayor Scott, and asked him to remove the moped from the sidewalk and park it in a parking place. While speaking to the driver, Mayor Scott interjected into the conversation and introduced himself to Deputy Mitchell and stated, “I’m Bob Scott, the mayor of Franklin and it’s ok, I told this man he can ride this on the sidewalk.”
When asked about the confrontation, Mayor Scott noted that as mayor, it is within his right to allow individuals to ride mopeds or motorcycles on the sidewalk, even if law prohibits it and that he has done so in the past. Mayor Scott noted that he has also given children permission to ride their skateboards and bikes in areas otherwise prohibited by law.
Both North Carolina and the town of Franklin charter clearly defines the roles of the city council, manager, and mayor.
The Town Council
By definition, the statuary responsibilities of the town council regardless of the form of government, provides that “except as otherwise provided by law, the government and general management of the city shall be vested in the council.” The town council has the authority to confer powers and duties on both the mayor and the manager in addition to those conferred on them by law. In a council-manager form of government, the council as a body appoints the city manager to serve at its pleasure. Thus by state, the town council has the primary responsibility to establish the general framework under which the government can meet the needs of the community, and as the employer of the manager, it is the body to whom the manager is directly responsible and accountable.
By statute, towns are given the option of electing a mayor separate from election of the council to serve from two to four years. In either case, the statuary powers and duties conferred on the mayor are few. Most of the responsibilities bestowed on a mayor in North Carolina are created by individual town charters, by action of the town council, or by the mayor’s own political stature. The state’s definition of the role of the mayor is to preside over council meetings and allows the power to call special called meetings or the council. As an elected official, Franklin’s charter allows the mayor to be the tie-breaking vote on matters concerning the town.
According to Franklin’s charter, “The mayor shall attend and preside over all meetings of the board. The power and duties of the mayor shall be such as are conferred upon him by the board pursuant to law. The mayor shall be the official head of the town for the purpose of civil service process and for all ceremonial purposes.”
The Town Manager
North Carolina law authorizes the town manager to be the chief administrator of the town. The manager is responsible for administering all municipal affairs placed in her charge, and be allowed to appoint and suspend all town officers and employees not elected by the people, and whose appointment or removal is not otherwise provided for by law.
Franklin’s charter states, “It shall be the duty of the town manager to cause all ordinances of the town to be enforced and to attend all meetings of the board. It shall further be the duty of the manager within 30 days after the close of each year to require a report to the board from the various departments of town government of the previous year and recommend the adjustments as he may see fit, and the manager shall perform other routes as the board may from time to time require.”