Did Mayor Jones overstep his power in shuffle?

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Did the administration of Mayor Dwight C. Jones overstep its power when it shuffled around several city departments last week?

That's a debate now raging among some at city hall. The city's charter lays out who has the power to do what at City Hall.

When Doug Wilder was in office, there were constant clashes over the charter.

Things have been much smoother lately under Dwight Jones, but his administration's first shake-up at City Hall has ruffled a few feathers.

Four days after taking the oath of office, Jones stood along side the leaders of city council and declared he was going to build a better Richmond.

"We can not expect to have external change until we have internal change," Jones said at that time.

His first mayor internal shuffle happened last week. The city's new chief adminstrative officer, combined two city departments run by Rachel Flynn and Carthan Currin. Currin left his position, and Jane Ferrara will help run the newly combined departments.

But according to the city's charter, only city council has the power to create, alter or abolish departments.

"It is the cart coming before the horse," said councilman Bruce Tyler. He has asked the city attorney for a legal opinion on the changes.

"I think that the mayor's trying to do the right thing. But we've got a little bit of a miss step here and we need to get the thing lined back up and put in the proper order," Tyler said.

According to the charter, the chief administrative officer can make temporary changes between departments. The city says Byron Marshall -- acting for the administration -- consulted with the city attorney before making the moves.

"I think there is a lot of growing pains about what the council's role is, what the mayor's role is, and what the chief administrative officer's role is in this new form of government," said Charles Samuels.

The mayor's administration plans to submit an ordinance and get council's approval in a few months, but some council members want the papers now.

"To make sure the citizens are getting good work for their money I would prefer to have this taken care of before we have to go into the budget cycle," said Samuels.

"The need to bring it forward sooner than later," Tyler said.

Everyone seems to agree the changes  were meant to improve services and make government more efficient.

The city attorney is expected to render an opinion later this week. The mayor and city council are currently working together on changes to the city charter that would be define the power. Those changes will ultimately need approval from the General Assembly.

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