An email thread between City Manager Joyce Wilson and City Representative Ann Morgan Lilly shows Wilson is directing policy and not just implementing the Council's vision, according to City Rep. Eddie Holguin. Wilson and Lilly said there's a much more simple explanation to the email that has nothing to do with Wilson trying to be a behind the scenes policy maker.
In the email, dated July 17, 2012, Wilson wrote to Lilly about re-establishing legislative review committees or LRCs, which are groups who vet issues more in detail before the items go to the entire city council. Wilson said the council had lost a useful vehicle to discuss issues that hadn't fully evolved and having them go directly to council overwhelmed the regular council meeting agendas. Lilly agreed. In the email, Wilson wrote to Lilly: "Make it your idea. Say you discussed with me a couple of times and I concurred."
Holguin believes that line conveys Wilson is inappropriately involved in setting forth policy. "City reps. are the ones that come up with the policy and it's her job to implement policy not the other way around. I think these types of emails demonstrate how she's injected herself and is spoon-feeding certain members of council."
Lilly said that's not the case. She said she and Wilson had met, as they do on a weekly basis to discuss the council agendas, and had mutually concurred the LRCs were necessary. Lilly said Wilson in the email was following up on the discussion the two had earlier and reminding Lilly which LRCs they had agreed upon. "This email is really taken out of context. It really seems that people are on a witch hunt for the city manager," she said.
Lilly also said she was not pleased with Holguin's criticism of Wilson. "I don't think it any of his business. It's between her (Wilson) and me and I'm the one who makes the policy ... And I think that's wrong of him -- to criticize something that came between the city manager and me."
In an interview Monday, Wilson also said she and Lilly had previously agreed on re-instituting the LRCs. "Council is very sensitive about staff initiating policy and so my point was -- if she wasn't comfortable basically saying that city manager request it, that she could just initiate it on her own." Wilson also said the City Charter allowed her to make recommendations to the council. "Basically I was just working with her as a follow-up, to assist her in putting it on the agenda and giving her some talking points in terms of how to approach it."
The City Charter states: "The primary function of the (city manager) department shall be the executive administration of the programs and policies established by the mayor and city council. The purpose of the department shall be to provide administrative management, through the departmental organization, of the services and staff operations of El Paso City Government."
Holguin believes the Charter does not give Wilson the authority to make a recommendation such as the one in the email. "If that's her interpretation of a city charter, then we need to have a powwow and discuss her role as a city manager and if she doesn't like working for her 9 bosses, there's an alternative to that and I think she needs to take that alternative if she doesn't like working for her 9 elected bosses."
Wilson said she is focused on implementing the vision for the city the council has set forth. "People have got us under a microscope.That's making it really difficult for us to do our work, which has always been honorable work - focusing on the best interest of the community. We've not done anything wrong. We're not doing anything underhanded or shady deals."
Martha Perego, the Ethics Director for the International City/County Management Association said city managers are entitled to advise council on policy matters and even the direction the city should or shouldn't be taking.