Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez wants the ability to attend city staff meetings, saying the current opportunities to participate in the government’s operations as mayor are limited.
A majority of his colleagues have balked at the idea.
Velazquez raised the issue at the Oct. 7 Hollister City Council meeting and requested it be put to vote at a future meeting.
“It’s important that I do attend staff meetings,” he said. “So often I’m asked by residents what’s going on with this or that. I don’t have the answers. It’s kind of frustrating to be a mayor of a city where I cannot participate other than just being here at the meetings.”
Velazquez requested a discussion on a municipal code section that outlines the council’s relationship with the city manager. The code requires city council members to deal with administrative services only through the city manager at council meetings. Also council members cannot give orders to the city manager’s subordinates.
Vice Mayor Marty Richman said the mayor’s proposal would violate “several provisions” of the municipal code, adding that the city council can only set policy as a body, not as individuals. The city’s code allows all council members equal footing, he said, and having the mayor attending staff meetings would give them “advantages” over the other members.
“If the mayor attends a meeting, even if he doesn’t speak, he has an influence,” Richman said. “Just being there is an influence. It’s not possible for any city council member to attend a staff meeting without exercising some influence, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”
He added that Hollister’s council-manager form of government allows the city manager to work with staff without a political angle.
“The city manager is the filter,” Richman said. “He makes sure the staff does not become politicized.”
Councilmember Rolan Resendiz said he doesn’t have any opposition to the mayor attending staff meetings, adding that Velazquez is only asking for permission to be there, not to provide direction.
“If we want to talk about politicizing the staff, they work in a political environment. They work for the government,” he said. “I’m sorry, that just comes with the territory. Sometimes you can have staff that is politicized. We can’t use that as an excuse.”
Hollister’s government is set up with a “weak mayor” system, as opposed to a “strong” system where the mayor has administrative authority, Councilmember Carol Lenoir said, adding that she wouldn’t support Velazquez’s proposal. Councilmember Honor Spencer said she would vote against it as well if it were up for consideration at a future meeting.