Paradise Valley Town Council begins governance discussions

Paradise Valley Town Hall is at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

The Paradise Valley Town Council has started to chip away at a list of policies and procedures to review in order to achieve its goal of a limited municipal government.

During a Sept. 28 study session, elected officials set aside 60 minutes to begin conversations on the first three of 13 items: consultants, transparency and cost estimates.

The 13 governance topics identified by the mayor and town council include defining limited government, rules of procedure and appointment process. Town Council is expected to spend one hour during each meeting discussing the topics.

“We’re just going to take them one at a time and we’ll go as far as we can get,” Town Manager Kevin Burke explained to the council at the study session.

Town Council’s meetings are held at Town Hall at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive.

Town officials discussed the parameters of consultants, mostly outlining what would be defined as a consultant vs. a contracted employee; and when to review the past year’s consultants and its budget impact.

In addition, a decision on which town committee email addresses should or should not be listed on the town website was rendered. Finally, the council voiced a desire to be kept aware of project cost estimates.

Consultants

The Town of Paradise Valley hires consultants to perform work in areas where staff members may lack expertise or time, or may have a conflict of interest.

Mr. Burke’s recommendations to the town council was to assign a staff person to be responsible for managing the consultant contract and performance, and annually review expenditures for consultants and contracted employees.

Mr. Burke defined a consultant as, “an individual or firm contracted by the town to perform analysis, design work including engineering or architectural or advisory services over $5,000.”

Kevin Burke

He proposed an administrative policy be used as the tool to address the request to assign a staff person to consultant contracts and performances.

“So the idea here was just that we hire a lot of people like pest exterminators. I don’t know that you’d call that a consultant because it’s contracted labor,” Mr. Burke explained of different types of workers.

“We’ve been short some positions and so we’ve used temporary contracted employees to do court clerk work, building inspector work, quite frankly legal work.”

Over the past three years or so, the town has hired 13 consultants, Mr. Burke said. He couldn’t give a total price associated with the hired hands.

The council ultimately made a few tweaks to Mr. Burke’s policies and procedures documents, and outlined its expectations for town staff when working with outside vendors.

“For me, my take on the management of consultants was more about staff accountability towards the execution of the contract work, really,” Mayor Michael Collins said.

Mayor Collins explained he would like to see a staff person be the face of the town project, rather than the consultant. Vice Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner agreed.

“If staff’s not able to work it and digest it, then there may be a problem with the consultant,” Vice Mayor Bien-Willner said of staff members learning the consultant’s results well enough to present it to council.

“I think having staff involved in that function puts up some guard rails. A consultant doesn’t understand this council, doesn’t understand this town, and they come and present us ideas. If staff’s involved in sort of a first-level, ‘hey I’m going to have to present this,’ … I think it stream lines and focuses the discussion.”

Transparency

Councilmember Julie Pace took the charge on the transparency topic, explaining residents have complained over town committee email addresses no longer being listed online.

Mr. Burke and Town Clerk Duncan Miller explained how the town’s committees and commissions operated differently due to their duties.

Julie Pace

Some groups have individual contacts, while others only list a staff and/or council liaison.

The Board of Adjustment members used to have their names listed online and email addresses listed, but they were taken down over the summer because they’re considered “quasi-judicial.”

The email addresses listed for the BoA now go to “Webmaster,” and Mr. Miller sends them to the members. Planning Commission has individual email addresses listed.

“Hillside doesn’t have (email addresses listed), so if a neighbor has a complaint, concern or whats to express something, they don’t have a place to write to,” said Councilwoman Pace.

Mr. Burke said the decision to remove the BoA members’ email addresses was made because, to increase transparency town officials felt one person shouldn’t be able to receive information that the others don’t receive.

“In order to, in my mind increase transparency, we’re saying we don’t want those behind-the-scenes contact with the Board of Adjustment because they’re rendering a quasi-position,” Mr. Burke explained of the decision to take down contact information.

The council decided that group email addresses such as, Hillside@ParadiseValley.gov, should be created for the different boards and commissions to protect personal contact information, and ensure all members are receiving the same information.

News Services Editor Melissa Fittro can be reached by e-mail at mfittro@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MelissaFittro

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