DIXON – Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard told the governmental task force Wednesday that maintaining checks and balances in a municipality can come down to personalities.
Shumard was invited to speak to the seven-citizen committee charged with evaluating Dixon’s form of government; he represented the city manager form. Team members still plan to make up their individual minds in August and then debate the issue.
When news that former Comptroller Rita Crundwell stole more than $53 million from Dixon, he talked with his finance director about what can be done to tighten controls in Sterling, Shumard said.
Having a certified public accountant as a finance director and a trained city administrator working hand in hand should be able to detect any wrongdoing, he said.
When asked who oversees his position, Shumard said he receives a performance review from the City Council, whose members are encouraged to ask questions about city finances.
At the end of the day, the people put in power have to be trusted, he said. “A lot comes down to personality.”
“Communication is a key,” said Shumard, who conducts most of his official communication via email to maintain a record of it.
Sterling also has a code of ethics in its employee handbook, and new hires sign a sheet saying they have read it.
Having a city manager, rather than an administrator, with the commission form provides clarity, he said.
Commissioners, who may possess a political agenda, can override an administrator regarding departmental matters, he said.
On the other hand, in the city manager form, in which the administrator’s powers are governed by state code, the manager has the final say. Commissioners would have to reach a consensus to overrule or fire a city manager, in the event of a disagreement.
The council is planning to hire an interim manager in the next few months.
Shumard said if he could impart any wisdom to Dixon, it would be to hire an interim administrator until the November 2014 and April 2015 election illuminates the direction the city is heading with its form of government and its elected officials, to get the best pool of candidates possible.
“There are bad managers and bad fits,” Shumard said. “The people who apply may not be the most successful. You want the best pool possible.”
Once Dixon is settled, the city has a wealth of resources that would make it an attractive place for potential candidates: a developed Riverfront, access to an interstate and the Ronald Reagan tourism draw, he said.
Task force members agreed that the city manager form takes power away from elected officials but still leaves them with the ability to hold the city manager accountable.
Marilyn Coffey is the task force chairwoman.
“It comes down to if we want an administrator outlined by statute or one the council agrees to,” she said.
The task force plans to invite Dixon’s commissioners to a future meeting to ask if they have any concerns or questions they want the panel to address in its study.
The mayor and commissioners have not attended a meeting since the day the group was formed, in order to give the panel independence.
The governmental task force meets at 9 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 121 W. Second St. Rochelle City Manager David Plyman will speak, and Ottawa officials also may attend.
Go to www.discoverdixon.org and click on "Citizens Information Center" or call City Hall, 815-288-1485, for an agenda or more information.