DOVER — The mayor’s July 31 veto of a council vote last spring placing the city’s economic development office under the authority of the city manager is too late and, therefore, invalid, city solicitor William Pepper told the council in a letter Monday night.
Mr. Pepper said Mayor Robin Christiansen’s veto had to take place within seven days of council’s March 23 vote to be valid.
Council members had voted 5-3 to make the mayor a full-time position, but all departments, excluding the city clerk’s office and the finance department, will report to the city manager.
In turn, the city manager is appointed by the city council and will report to city council.
The mayor has the power to veto council’s decision, but council can override that veto with a two-thirds majority vote.
Mayor Christiansen wasn’t in attendance during Monday night’s meeting, but in a note to council expressed his feelings for why the economic development office should remain under the mayor.
“Since the inception of the full time mayor’s office in 1997,in addition to being the public’s full time advocate at city hall it was that one of the other responsibilities that the mayor be involved daily in the marketing of our great city,” Mayor Christiansen wrote.
“Subsequently, the Office of Economic Development was created and eventually assigned to the scope of the mayor’s responsibility. Over the last year I have worked closely with the city manager and staff including the Economic Office.”
“We have met with potential new businesses as well as existing ones to protect jobs currently we have in our community,” Mayor Christiansen added. “I believe that it is important for the mayor to continue to be part of that function considering the current state of our economy here in Dover and Kent County.
“It is an important function for the mayor to work not only on making our city safe, but to build our tax and employment base to allow us to grow and maintain the services that not only make our city attractive but deserved by our taxpayers.”
Councilman David Anderson agreed, but wished action to veto the decision should have taken place in March.
“I would have definitely supported it,” Councilman Anderson said. “There has been substantial progress with the economic development department since it was relocated under the mayor. The goals were starting to be met and unemployment has gone down.
“I think it was a mistake at the time and I would love to sustain the veto but I agree with the legal agreement,” he added.
Council will discuss the structure of the city’s government in Septermber.
Councilman Fred Neil said that will give him time to think about it moving forward.
“There are five of us, who were not elected to this body when those decisions were made,” Mr. Neil said. “I think that there’s a lot of consideration that has to be done and we need to go out and do the work.
“We need to think about this and talk to our constituents and we will meet in September to discuss this matter again.”