A divided Coral Gables City Commission passed an ordinance Tuesday that would transfer the responsibility of preparing meeting agendas to the city clerk, a function that was previously done by the city manager.
The move comes after several commissioners said former city manager Pat Salerno — who resigned in April amid rising tension between him and some of the commissioners — would pick and choose what to put on the agenda. Salerno was five years on the job.
Commissioner Vince Lago spearheaded the item, saying that moving the agenda preparation to the City Clerk’s office would “serve as a vehicle to ensure transparency.”
During Tuesday’s commission meeting, Mayor Jim Cason and Vice Mayor Bill Kerdyk Jr. dissented during the second reading of the ordinance. Lago, along with Commissioners Frank Quesada and Patricia Keon voted yes.
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“Nothing is broken,” Cason said, adding that he doesn’t see a problem with the current system. “Why should we fix something that isn’t broken?”
After Salerno’s resignation, Lago asked the City Clerk’s office to conduct a survey of all municipalities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The survey looked at how agendas were prepared and who handled them.
Yolande Davis, the operational services coordinator in the City Clerk’s office, contacted all city and town clerks, emails show.
According to the data collected, only two cities in Miami-Dade have their city manager prepare the agenda — Coral Gables and Bay Harbor Islands. In Broward, there’s only one — Pompano Beach.
In nine of 34 cities in Miami-Dade — that’s about 26 percent of the county — either the city manager and/or the city attorney works alongside the city clerk in preparing the agenda. Those cities are: Miami, Doral, Miami Gardens, Miami Springs, Homestead, West Miami, and the villages of Bal Harbor, Biscayne Park and Indian Creek.
The rest of the 23 cities — almost 68 percent of the county — have only the city clerk prepare the agenda, according to the Gables survey.
In Broward County, 13 of 17 municipalities contacted by Coral Gables said they have only the city clerk prepare the agenda. In Palm Beach County, 10 of 18 cities function that way too, the Coral Gables data show.
Lago said it’s time Coral Gables joins the majority of South Florida. He said the ordinance would allow city commissioners, the mayor, the city attorney and the city manager to put items on the agenda. Before, items would solely go through the city manager, creating possible “barriers.”
Keon agreed. Although Salerno was widely praised for his financial stewardship of the city — leaving the city with $28.7 million in reserves from the $1 million when he got there — his time was also marked by occasional problems that some say stemmed from his abrasive management style and lack of transparency. The commission voted 4-1 to accept Salerno’s resignation, with Mayor Cason dissenting.
“This is an issue that is related to Pat Salerno,” Keon said. “When he was manager, he made it difficult by denying commissioners the ability to place items on the agenda. That was his management style. It created a great deal of controversy and we want to avoid that.”
Keon added that the process also gives the “city an advantage. It creates an efficiency that wasn’t considered before.”
“The City Clerk’s Office already does all the training for agenda preparation,” she said. “They also have the access to the technology needed for record keeping and they already train people in the manager’s office. It will be easy to move the process over there.”
The ordinance became effective Wednesday, enough time so that the future city manager may adhere, Lago added.