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How much mayoral power is too much power?

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Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby.

Seaside Mayor Ian Oglesby. Photographed by Parker Seibold.

David Schmalz here, thinking about power, and how much is too much. 

A few weeks ago, in the Weekly’s Squid column, Squid opined about an ordinance the Seaside City Council passed back in March 2021, in a 3-2 vote, granting the mayor the ability to remove any item off the agenda at his or her discretion.

At an April 21 Seaside City Council meeting, Pastor Ronald Britt of Greater Victory Temple opened public comment by pushing back on Squid’s assertion, saying, “our mayor does not have veto power, our mayor is not the king, he’s the mayor of Seaside.” 

Britt is not correct: The mayor does have veto power—he or she can remove things from the agenda before there’s even a vote on them. That’s a specific power that essentially makes the mayor (currently Ian Oglesby) a king of sorts. 

A council discussion on the ordinance ensued later in the April 21 meeting, and Councilmember Jason Campbell asked City Attorney Sheri Damon what the mechanism was if the city manager, say, added something to the agenda and the mayor took it off—how would the rest of the council be notified?

Damon responded: “The city code is silent on that particular issue. The way you would do that is call the city manager.” Oglseby says he believes there is a reporting mechanism, but it's nowhere to be found in the ordinance detailing this process.

The most pertinent language in the ordinance states the mayor may remove or delay any item on the agenda “that does not have enough information or facts necessary for the efficient and timely conduct of the city’s business.”

In my read, you can drive a semi-truck through that language. 

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Mayor Pro Tem Dave Pacheco tells me he attends the agenda review meetings alongside the mayor and has never seen Oglesby remove anything from the agenda. He also said that his understanding of the ordinance was that the mayor could not remove something permanently, only delay it. But Pacheco’s understanding does not align with how the ordinance reads. Again, it allows the mayor to remove any item from the agenda “for the efficient and timely conduct of the city’s business.” It does not dictate that the item will be moved to a future agenda—to use Damon’s words, it’s “silent” on that. 

The ordinance was passed a year ago but has resurfaced amid Seaside’s city manager search. The city manager position has been vacant since late August 2021, and the City Council, in closed session March 25, extended the application deadline to April 26. It leaves me wondering: Is the ordinance having a chilling effect on prospective applicants? On the former staff side, the Weekly reported in the wake of the ordinance passing that former city clerk Lesley Milton submitted her resignation four days later. Former city manager Craig Malin submitted his resignation the following June, a few months later. 

Perhaps that’s all a coincidence. Oglesby, for his part, says he doesn’t think such a chilling effect exists.

I also consider the idea that this power exists for time management purposes—as Damon, Pacheco and Oglesby have repeatedly told me—to be ludicrous. Just the other night, a Seaside City Council closed session meeting ran until after midnight. 

It’s also worth noting that both of the council members who voted against the ordinance last year—Jason Campbell and Jon Wizard—are not running for reelection. Even if three or more other council members wanted to take that power away, the ordinance allows the mayor to take that off the agenda, too. In a nutshell: The king can prevent the rest of the council from taking away his king-like powers. 

And lastly, a question to consider: If Oglesby, as he claims, doesn’t exercise the power—which was granted to him while he was presiding as mayor—what exactly was the point of revising the ordinance?

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