Pat Shannon’s Letter

Aspiring autocrats often point to some generic power that they have been granted in an attempt to justify their pretense to power. In the case of the Bellevue City Administrator, in a recent article, he has cited a Bellevue City code Section 2-165(2) that allows him the ability to “make recommendations” to the City Council foi the adoption of measures and ordinances he prefers. He then asserts that this code grants him the right to remove items lawfully placed on the agenda by members of the council if he, in his sole discretion, finds them wanting or potentially embarrassing to his administration. In effect, the City Administrator is asserting that a code that allows him input on council activities actually allows him veto power over the council agenda. Perhaps the most troubling effect of this interpretation is that it nullifies the council’s oversight role of the City Administration until and unless the Administration consents to be overseen. Were this merely a theoretical obstruction of oversight a less public approach might be called for, however there are currently two agenda items relating to the Council’s oversight role that the City Administrator is actively blocking. Furthermore, having now shown a willingness to exercise this “authority” it is imperative that this new theory advanced by the City Administrator is addressed and defeated before it is allowed to further disenfranchise the voters of Bellevue. Bellevue City code Section 2-29 specifies how items are placed on the Council agenda and it does not grant the City Administrator approval authority over what items are placed on the agenda, To that end, it is important to understand, legally, why this claim is without merit, and for that I must discuss the fact that Nebraska is a Dillon’s Rule state. Put simply — if there is a question about a local government’s power or authority, the local government does NOT receive the benefit of the doubt. Under Dillon’s Rule, one must assume the local government does NOT have the power in question unless it is expressly granted by statute or manifestly required by its obligations. So the Bellevue City Administrator’s claim that a section of city code granting him authority over the executive branch also grants him authority over the legislative agenda is not only flagrantly unsupported by law it undercuts the basic precepts of American democracy – namely the three equal branches of government. The Mayor and the City Administrator run the Executive branch of city government. The City Council is the legislative branch of government and is the check and balance over the Executive branch. So how would it make any sense for the Executive branch to have the power to block the Legislative branch from doing its job and providing the checks and balance over the Executive Branch? That would make no sense. V/hen I place a closed session discussion onto the agenda in order to be briefed on the investigation into the Bellevue Chief of Police, I am exercising my oversite duties. The people have a right to know why the Police Chief has been sitting at home for over two months now. They have the right to know what outside agency is conducting this investigation or if it is being handled internally. While not every detail of such personnel matters needs to be aired publicly I have a responsibility to the people of Bellevue to oversee this matter. We are receiving press inquiries on a neaf daily basis asking us these very questions and they are stunned to learn that *.u,.beingkeptinthedarkbytheAdministration,justastheyare’ when I place a discussion onto the agenda in order to be briefed on the status of champions village, again I am exercising my oversite duties. The city owns and is now responsible for this complex. I want to know if the locks have been cut off the gates and if we now have access to our own pfoperty. Has the trash been cleaned up, have we contracted for the repairs from the June storm, what is the management plan for the future so we have revenues to pay off the remaining 2.5 million in debt on the pråp.ny. These are just some of the many questions I have for the city Administrator on this topic. while I concede the topic might be embarrassing for his administration, I fail to see how that absolves either of us from performing our duties in this and other matters. Not only are these requests completely reasonable, but the city Administrator’s assertion that he gets to determine thåir vatidity for inclusion on the Council’s own agenda is itself plainly unreasonable. The council does not need to justify its agenda to the city administrator’ though we afe happy to have the Administration’s input as provided by city code’ Nevertheless’ his continued intrusion into the council agenda is unlawfur and ought to be of grave concern to every citizenwhose vote is disenfranchised each time he is afiowed to assert a power he does not have in order to fiustrate the oversite efforts of the duly elected council members of Bellevue’ Pat Shannon, Bellevue City Councilman