A Salida City Council work session was held on Aug. 14, at which council members had planned to discuss their views on procedures for directing the City Attorney and for reviewing his work and bills. The session was preempted when the Mayor invited the City Attorney, Ben Kahn, to lead the discussion. For nearly two hours, as Kahn explained the protocol he envisioned for the City’s supervision of him, all dialog among council members was limited. While Kahn did invite individual council members to confer with him to present their comments, that was to be in private, out of the view of the public. See YouTube Video and transcript.
During his presentation, Kahn advised Council that, in his view, the Mayor had complete authority to direct the City Attorney and that Council had no power to overrule him. He said the Mayor had full advance knowledge of, and approved of, everything Kahn did.
The task remains for Council to exercise responsibility in directing and controlling the City Attorney and in overseeing the quality and cost of his work. His compensation is on track to reach ½ million dollars by October.
At a Salida City Council Work Session scheduled for Monday, August 14, Council is expected to discuss two subjects regarding procedures for controlling and overseeing the work of the City Attorney: 1) Who directs the City Attorney and authorizes the work he does? Council, by a vote? The Mayor? The Mayor Pro-Tem? And if the Mayor or Mayor Pro-Tem, is Council entitled to be informed in advance and given an opportunity to weigh in? And 2) How are the detailed bills of the City Attorney to be reviewed and approved for payment? Again, by the City Council? By the Mayor? By the Mayor Pro-Tem? Or by Staff, or at least after a preliminary review and report by Staff?
This will be the fourth item on the Agenda of the meeting scheduled to start at 6 pm. Be informed and let council members know you’re interested in how they address this issue. Attend the meeting in Council Chambers at East 1st and C Streets in Salida.
How much is a Salida Council Member worth? It depends whom you ask. Presently, the salary of each is $150/month. That’s little compensation for those who, in addition to attending regular meetings, review hundreds of documents, participate on numerous boards and committees, research each topic, and communicate with their Wards.
As a result, council has been dominated by retirees. It has been recognized by all six council members that increasing pay is needed to attract younger, more energetic, and forward looking candidates. Those candidates tend to be employed or small business owners for whom it would cost money as well as time to serve.
But faced with recent challenges to incumbents from just such younger candidates, a bare majority on council responded on cue from their designated citizen participant at the 8/1 Council meeting to simultaneously experience a “change of heart”, and voted down the pay raise.