As our loyal readers know we have been in a verbal sparring match between Joe and Karin Griffin in one corner and Mr. Thomas Brazil Senior in the other corner. The battle is a tie in that neither side was arguing the opposite side of the same statement. Said another way, the argument was stupid on both parties part.
Brazil wanted to contend that Mr. Williams could be a CONSULTANT for the Town of Fort White. We had no problem with that. The Griffin’s wanted to argue that he couldn’t be a decision maker for the town, which is true. According to his Contract Williams must present his ideas and suggestions to the Council as a whole. He has no independent decision making authority having to g o to the Council for anything.
Brazil, I think, wants to contend that Mr. Williams is a substitute for the Town Manager. The Griffin’s want to contend that the Charter of Ft. White has no provision for a Town Manager, the position just doesn’t exist. In Fort White a stand alone Mayor is elected by the people (in White Springs the Mayor is elected by t he Council) In Fort White the Mayor, independently elected but having no vote on council actions (except perhaps having a veto authority for Council actions) . The Mayor in White Springs has no veto authority and only one vote on Council decisions. The Council in Fort White is the ULTIMATE authority, subject only to a mayoral veto. All Consultants including Mr. Koberlein, the attorney, and Mr. Williams, the Administrative Consultant, report to the Council. No consultant can make an independent decision. The Council approves everything.
Things are not so simple in White Springs. Here the town manager wields a tremendous amount of power, able to make decisions with out the Council’s approval. An example of this power is hiring and firing. Not having read the Fort White Charter I believe the Council must approve all hiring and firings since they, the Council, are ultimately responsible. In White Springs the council is responsible for giving the Town Manager directions and guidance but except for terminating the Town Manager the manager has ultimate authority to do most things. Said a different way, the only real power the Council has (according to our Charter) is to approve the Budget and vote to keep or suspend the town manager. They can give him or her guidance and retain or suspend based upon the Council’s decision or guidance but as we saw with Tebo the Manager is not required to follow the guidance of the Council. In White Springs the Town Manager is an oriental potentate, a ruler of one, subject only to the council’s decision to hire and fire and approve the Budget.
You may have heard these terms before, “Weak Mayor” and “Strong Mayor”. White Springs has a Weak Mayor form of government whereas Fort White has a Strong Mayor form of government. There is no town manager in Ft. White and we, White Springs, live and die by the whims of our town manager. In Ft. White the only thing that keeps Mr. Williams coming to work is his desire to do good and the money. In White Springs we cannot operate without a town manager according to the Charter.
Mr. Williams is not a Town Manager in Fort White and reports to the Council for everything. Mr. Jones operates independently of the Council. All the Council can do if to hire and fire the town manager and approve or disapprove his budget. Their role is clearly advisory. Allowed to express opinions but not to make any decisions save hiring and firing the Town Manager and approving or denying the town budget which the Town Manager puts together.
Mr. Brazil and we were talking out of different sides of our mouths. YES Mr. Williams and Mr. Jones can be a consultant. But Mr. Jones can not weld his power as an independent contractor, he must make decisions and, unlike Mr. Williams, doesn’t need to report all things to the Council. If the town wants to give Mr. Jones that power we need to change the charter to a Strong Mayor form of Government, thereby eliminating the Town Manager position entirely.
I am opposed to such an idea but it would require a vote of the people to change the Charter. So Mr. Brazil was right partially for a strong mayor form of government which we do not have. And the Griffins were right for a weak Mayor form of government which we do have.
We apologize to Mr. Brazil for not realizing sooner that we were talking about apples and oranges.