November 21, 2014

Elyria
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Some Elyria Council members upset over memo directing them to talk to safety service director

Some Elyria City Council members are up in arms over a memo that was distributed by the city administration urging them to contact Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka instead of department heads if they have a question or concern.

Councilwoman Brenda Kay Davis, D-2nd Ward, said she took the memo as an edict not to talk to department heads, which she said should be a right of elected officials. She spoke up during Monday’s Council meeting telling the administration she was uncomfortable with their approach.

“I’m going to do what I have to do to respond to constituents as much as I need to,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Councilwoman Donna Mitchell, D-6th Ward. Mitchell said she prefers the method used in previous years where she called department heads when residents posed questions she could not answer or sent a request for information through the Council clerk.

“If I want to call the engineer with a question, I feel as an elected official I have that right and will continue to do so,” she said. “My point is not to bypass the administration, but we had a process in place for all of the years that has worked. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it is my point.

Brinda said the idea is not to control information, but to make sure questions are answered in an orderly fashion and concerns are tracked appropriately.

She said her office is responsible for making sure they know what is going on in the city at all times and if Council members call department heads its akin to those employees reporting to two different bosses without knowing what issues take priority.

However, Councilman Larry Tanner, D-1st Ward, said he has never put employees in a position to rush his inquiries just because he is an elected official.

“I don’t tell them when to do it or how, but they just get it done,” Tanner said.

Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said he doesn’t have a problem going to Siwierka or Brinda but cautioned the administration against sending the wrong message to Council.

“Residents have sent us here to ensure we do the best for them,” he said. “If we lose our voice, we will no longer be able to do the job we were sent here to do.”

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.