BY ALICIA ROBINSON
STAFF WRITER
arobinson@pe.com

Published: 16 January 2012 09:34 PM

At least two of the proposed changes to Riverside’s city charter would curb the city manager’s authority, in one case by eliminating that person’s oversight of certain employees, and in another by giving a board of residents more say.

The suggestions are among a list of about five substantive changes and a handful of minor tweaks to update wording, job titles and the like, that the City Council will consider Jan. 24. A council-appointed committee that met regularly for the past nine months came up with the charter change proposals. The council will decide which changes to place on the ballot, and voters in June will have the final say.

One change would require the board of public utilities to sign off on the suspension or removal of the public utilities director. Currently, the board gets to vote when the city manager hires a utilities director but doesn’t have a say in firing or suspension decisions.

The other change removes the city manager’s authority over employees of the city clerk and city attorney. All three positions are “charter officers” who report to the City Council and have their powers and duties described in the city’s governing document. The city clerk and attorney don’t answer to the city manager, but in past practice nearly all other city employees did.

City Attorney Greg Priamos, who proposed the change, would only speak generally about it and would not comment on whether it was a response to a specific incident.

The charter now lets the city manager approve or disapprove hiring decisions of the city clerk and attorney. Priamos said he doesn’t think that matches the intent of the charter to keep those three positions independent.

“Having the city manager having any influence whatsoever on the personnel decisions of the city attorney can … impair the city attorney’s ability to provide independent, unbiased legal advice and counsel to my client,” which is the city as represented by the council, Priamos said.

City Clerk Colleen Nicol said the charter’s creation of separate offices for the city clerk, attorney and manager means “That is what the voters wanted. It only makes sense that our employees would be equally independent.”

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