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The call is coming from inside the government!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 by Elizabeth Pagano

Yesterday, City Council Member Don Zimmerman announced his contribution to the ongoing discussion about hiring a new city manager. In a press release, the self-described “critic of the Austin city government” declared his intention to pursue charter amendments that would require an affirmative vote every two years to retain the city manager and a change that would require the city attorney to report directly to Council. “The City Manager is the most powerful person in City government,” explained Zimmerman. “The manager has control of over 12,000 employees. By having Council vote in the affirmative every two years to keep the City Manager (or not) shifts some of that power to the elected Council by making the city manager decision part of every two-year election.” Zimmerman also released a statement, and an email, about the second proposed charter amendment, which is similar to the one that failed in the 2012 election. “The City Attorney holds tremendous influence over elected Council through attorney-client executive session meetings behind closed doors, and other routine communications not open to public information requests,” Zimmerman noted. “Misguided legal advice costs the city budgets – and our constituents – millions of dollars, and reorients elected council members view away from the interest of constituents and towards the interests of staff bureaucrats. The City Attorney should answer directly to elected Council instead of directly to the already too powerful City Manager.” In addition to a press release, Zimmerman sent out a copy of an email sent to him by an assistant city attorney. That email reads, in part, “We understand you attended an Austin Water rate proceeding with a constituent, at which the constituent and city staff presented their respective sides to the presiding administrative hearing judge. Please keep in mind that city code section 2-7-62(D) prohibits city officials from representing, directly or indirectly, any other person in any action or proceeding against the interests of the City.”

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