MERIDIAN — The Meridian City Council approved an ordinance last week giving the mayor the authority to hire and fire three more staff members in the Mayor’s Office shortly after the city’s first new mayor in 16 years took office.
The ordinance establishes which positions in the Mayor’s Office — the chief of staff, the executive assistant to the mayor, the community relations specialist and the programs and events specialist — are “tied to the mayor,” according to Shandy Lam, communications manager for the city of Meridian.
The ordinance says certain positions within the Mayor’s Office “serve a unique role,” and the mayor “needs flexibility in filling and maintaining those positions.”
Previously, the mayor had the authority to hire and fire only for the executive assistant position. Under the new ordinance, the mayor now has authority to hire and fire four staff members. The ordinance also gives the mayor the authority to determine the salaries of those employees.
“The status change allows a new Mayor, with a new agenda, the opportunity to replace those employees, rather than inherit their predecessor’s staff, should they wish,” Lam said in an email.
The ordinance says the mayor can remove someone from one of these positions “for any reason or no reason, as deemed by the Mayor in the best interests of the City.”
Lam said she is not aware of changes to Mayor Robert Simison’s staff as a result of the ordinance. Simison was elected in November and sworn in earlier this month.
Meridian hasn’t had a new mayor in 16 years — four-term Mayor Tammy de Weerd left office this year. Simison, De Weerd’s former chief of staff, ran for election after his boss announced she was retiring.
According to the city’s website, positions in the Mayor’s Office are held by the following people:
- Chief of Staff: David Miles
- Community Relations Specialist: Jodi St-Martin
- Executive Assistant to the Mayor: Josha Iverson
- Program and Events Specialist: Vacant
City Council President Treg Bernt said in a phone interview on Wednesday the ordinance gives the Meridian mayor the ability to bring in “his or her own people” so the mayor “could have discretion” on his or her team.
“We thought that made sense, and we made an ordinance so ... that could happen going forward,” he said.
The Boise mayor already has that authority, Bernt said. The Boise Mayor’s Office has nine staff members.
The day after new Boise Mayor Lauren McLean took office, four members of the mayor’s staff left the city’s payrolls.
At the Jan. 21 Meridian City Council meeting, City Attorney William Nary, at the request of Councilwoman Liz Strader, clarified that the council has the authority to approve the city’s budget, which includes staff salaries such as personnel working in the Mayor’s Office.
The ordinance also establishes that if a member of the mayor’s staff is removed without cause, they will be eligible for a severance benefit. The benefit is equivalent to the employee’s weekly wage per years of service, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. An employee is only eligible if they are removed from their position within 30 days of the date a new mayor took office.
The ordinance took effect immediately.