Candidates for the interim city council participate in virtual interviews held by the city council
Ann Arbor City Council conducted public interviews with candidates for interim city administrators Peter Burchard and Milton Dohoney on Tuesday evening. The city seeks to fill the position temporarily while it prepares a recruitment process to find a permanent city manager.
Former City Administrator Tom Crawford resigned after a council vote on July 20 to end his tenure and release a nine-page report detailing allegations that Crawford had made several racially insensitive comments, referring to gender stereotypes and warned against recruiting minorities.
The city council selected Burchard and Dohoney in a closed session on September 13th. Personnel director Tom Guajardo moderated the interviews and initiated the discussion with the candidate Burchard.
Burchard is currently a local council advisor and previously held the position of City Manager in Naperville, Illinois. When Guajardo asked how Burchard would describe his leadership style in relation to community and city staff, Burchard said that he believed that public service executives in particular should be held accountable for how the council treats citizens.
“We are accountable to one another, we are accountable to you, we are accountable to the citizens,” said Burchard. “We have to prove that every day. And if we treat each other, we will treat citizens the same way. “
Burchard said he believed in hearing the opinions of elected officials as long as the council’s comments were based on the issue at hand.
“You have to be based on what you as a board of directors, as a council, are trying to solve,” said Burchard. “There are very important principles of governance that will get tough when they cross the line and are personal, and it’s up to you to figure out what to do about them.”
Burchard also shared his first impressions of reading the Ann Arbor town budget. Burchard encouraged the council to set clear priorities and a multiannual budget to understand which goals are sustainable.
“When you look at all of your accounting books and documents there, I think there are some concerns about your long-term labor obligations,” said Burchard. “And (there is) the potential that those kinds of costs can affect your ability to achieve the kinds of goals you want to achieve with capital expenditures, affordable housing, your mission of investing that $ 5 million on climate issues right now Fiscal year and many other initiatives that are in the budget. “
Councilor Linh Song, D-Ward 2, one of the liaison officers for the community’s Independent Police Oversight Commission, asked Burchard to speak about his intention to join the community police. Burchard said he believed that any complaints made against a police officer should be handled externally and to the knowledge of the Citizens Inspectorate.
“If there is a high profile incident in the police department and a citizens’ control committee is groping in the dark, something is wrong,” said Burchard. “That doesn’t make sense to me. There should be enough trust there that important calls can be made and people can be brought in, with the restriction that they first inform the mayor and the city council and they have a say in who else is informed. ”
Dohoney was previously Assistant City Manager of Phoenix, Arizona and City Manager and Chief Executive Officer of Cincinnati, Ohio. Given his own leadership style, Dohoney said he believes in integrity, ethical behavior and accountability. He assured the council that he would build a strong relationship with the staff from day one as the interim city administrator.
“If you choose me, I won’t get there with the attitude, I’ll just sit around idly, accept the status quo, and sit there for 12 months until you’re ready to move on,” said Dohoney. “And that’s why I’m going to involve the staff (and) make sure they know I’m adopting the collaborative style. I have to be inclusive in the decision making. I’m not defensive when people want to challenge or ask questions about why I made a decision. And you will immediately know that it is incompatible with the way I work, just doing enough to make ends meet. “
In the event of a split council, Dohoney said he would provide professional advice and try to incorporate into majority decision-making the opinions of all council members on what is best for each community.
“Even though we are taking action on the basis of the majority in the council, I believe there are ways to deliver the output so you may understand some of the considerations from the minority side of the vote,” said Dohoney. “So you’re still in line with what the majority is asking, but you can potentially weave in some other things that people on the minority side of this vote would like to see.”
Dohoney also spoke of his intention to engage with community police and the ICPOC. He said he was involved in police reform in both Cincinnati and Phoenix and believes law enforcement as a system needs to evolve.
“The police need transformative change,” said Dohoney. “And while I recognize that we need change on behalf of both the community and law enforcement, I think law enforcement needs to move a little more. Because they have the authority; they have the badge, they have the weapon. “
When asked how he would approach an issue on which he disagreed with the council, Dohoney said he believed the city administrator should make a professional judgment on these issues despite his personal philosophies and preferences.
“When you work in the city council, you learn very quickly that this is not about you,” said Dohoney. “It’s not about your agenda, it’s not about what you want. That’s not what we do. We are implementing the vision and direction of policy makers, and I would if you invite me to Ann Arbor. “
The council will hold a special session on September 27th to discuss the city administrator’s finalists.
The Daily Staff reporter Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at [email protected]