At Mayor and Council meeting of June 7, 2010, the Gazette claimed that Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio stated she was “the city leader and de facto chief executive” of the City of Rockville. I didn’t hear that on the broadcast, but confusion over the roles of board and staff isn’t unusual. I’ve served on boards, for boards, and with boards and one of the most common areas of friction and frustration is the role of the board and staff in an organization. It’s made even more confusing because of the various interchangeable titles used by those at the top (e.g., president, chair, chief executive, mayor). Rockville’s Mayor was initially called a President.
Firstly, every organization is different so it’s crucial to understand the rules under which they operate. For the City of Rockville, it’s the City Charter and the City Code. You can’t assume that what happens in New York or Baltimore or Kensington is the same as Rockville. In Rockville, the primary powers of the Council are to pass and enforce ordinances; appoint the City Manager, City Clerk, and City Attorney; and adopt a budget, levy taxes, and borrow money. The primary powers of the City Manager are to hire staff; prepare and manage the budget; purchase equipment and supplies; and lead the administrative branch of the City. Indeed, Chapter 2, Article 2 of the City Code states that, “The City Manager shall be the executive officer and head of the administrative branch of the City.”
Secondly, don’t make assumptions about titles. Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II share the same titles and names, but boy, they have very different powers. QE I could raise an army and declare war on Spain. QE II must leave that decision to Parliament. Likewise, the Mayor of New York and the Mayor of Rockville have vastly different powers and responsibilities. Although the Mayor is elected separately in Rockville, he or she has exactly the same powers as other members of Council. The only distinctions provided by law is that the Mayor presides over the Council meeting, receives more pay than the Council, and appoints board and commission members—that’s it. Over the years, the City has provided a reserved parking spot, an office, and other benefits for the Mayor, but they’re optional. The Rockville Mayor doesn’t have his or her own budget, can’t hire and fire staff, can’t purchase equipment and supplies, and can’t veto Council decisions.
So, Rockville’s Mayor is not the chief executive and she’s not the city leader. The current Charter identifies every member of Council as a city leader and that the City Manager is the chief executive.