Gary: Two pieces of suggested reading — the city charter and the city’s nepotism policy.
Mayoral prospect Gary Hinzman asked the city’s Board of Ethics a simple question: Do his wife, Linda Hinzman, and daughter, Paula Hinzman Mitchell, as well as a brother-in-law have to quit city employment if he is elected the city’s part-time mayor.
They won’t. But he is not going to get a simple answer like that.
At a meeting at noon Thursday at City Hall, the Board of Ethics concluded that it doesn’t have jurisdiction in the matter because Gary Hinzman is not now a city official and is not a prospective candidate for city office with a business relationship with the city that might create a conflict should he be elected.
The board members suggested that Gary’s relatives confer with the city’s human resources office or their department supervisors if they had any question about the matter.
However, board member Bill Quinby noted that, as he understood it, city employees in the city’s council/manager government report to the city manager and not to elected officials.
City Attorney Jim Flitz, who attended the board meeting, agreed with Quinby, saying city employees report to managers and directors who, in turn, report to the city manager.
Flitz made reference to the city charter which he says spells out what the City Council can and can’t do. He noted that the charter treats police and fire chiefs differently than other city employees.
The city charter gives the council, of which the mayor is one of nine members, the responsibility to hire the city manager, city attorney and city clerk.
The charter also says the city manager hires a police chief and fire chief “with the advice and consent of the city council.”
The city charter goes on to say it is the city manager’s duty to “supervise and direct the administration of city government and the official conduct of employees of the city appointed by the city manager including their employment, training, reclassification, suspension or discharge as the occasion requires, subject to state law.”
In another section, the charter says this of the City Council’s role:
“… (N)either the City Council nor any of its members shall control or demand the appointment or removal of any city administrative officer or employee whom the city manager or any subordinate of the city manager is empowered to appoint, but the council may express its views and fully and freely discuss with the city manager anything pertaining to the appointment and removal of such officers and employees.
“Further, a council member may not interfere with the supervision or direction of any person appointed by or under control of the city manager.”
Flitz also noted to the Board of Ethics that the city has a nepotism policy.
In that policy, it states that “no employee shall be supervised, either directly or indirectly, by a family member.”
Earlier this week, Hinzman said he was seeking an answer to the question about city-employee relatives should he decide to run for mayor. As much as anything, he wanted to be able to have something to lean on should the question come up.
Hinzman, long-time director of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, is a former Cedar Rapids police chief. He is sensitive to issues surrounding relatives in city employment because of questions raised in 1987 when he was police chief and his wife, then a civilian staff member in the Police Department, was positioned to become the department’s accountant. Then-Public Safety Commissioner Floyd Bergen transferred the accounting position to the auditor’s office to resolve the matter.