Dover mayor at odds with council over office’s role

DOVER — His veto may be too late to be valid, but the issue it raised continues, the city’s mayor insisted Tuesday.

“We’re at a crossroads,” Mayor Robin Christiansen said. “The public wants a strong full-time mayor and this just continues to show that council doesn’t seem to get that message.”

City council members agreed Monday with city solicitor William Pepper that it was too late for Mayor Robin Christiansen to veto their decision to place the city’s economic development office under the authority of the city manager.

Mr. Pepper said Mayor Christiansen’s veto had to take place within seven days of council’s March 23 vote to be valid.

But the mayor said regardless of the decision his intention was to get the public’s attention regarding the responsibilities of the mayor.

Robin Christiansen

Robin Christiansen

“Council has spoken, but for the last 20 years the public has stated that they want a strong mayor,” he said.

On March 23 council members 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 wrote a letter to council on July 31 to veto its July 27 decision to adopt the motion voted on at council’s March 23 meeting.

But, apparently, he had to veto the decision within seven days of the March 23 vote on the motion.

“I was told I was able to do so, but the city solicitor interpreted it a different way,” Mayor Christiansen said.

“I didn’t veto the March 23 decision because we we’re in the middle of an election campaign. It’s not about me, it’s about what’s best for the city.”

Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. said he stands by council’s decision to agree with the city solicitor.

“If you have to do it in seven days, then you have to honor that,” Councilman Sudler said. “It’s unfortunate, but it had to be done in a timely manner.”

Mayor Christiansen said since the inception of the mayor’s office it was one of responsibilities of the mayor to be involved with the marketing of the city.

“Over the last year I have worked closely with the city manager and staff including the economic office,” he said. “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.

“People looking to bring businesses here have come here in the past and the last question they ask is, when do I get to meet the mayor? The mayor is the focal point of the city and it should be that way.”
Council will discuss the structure of the city’s government in September.

Mr. Sudler said whatever decisions are made will be important in moving forward.

“It’s important that everyone gets involved so we can make the best decision possible,” he said. “We need to talk to our constituents to see what they want too. I would like to see a strong mayor/city council form of government.”

“The city manager will report to the mayor and then the mayor will report to city council, so we can hold the mayor accountable,” Mr. Sudler added.

Mayor Christiansen said he shared the same sentiment.

“I’m not at war with the city manager or anyone on council,” he said. “I think the public has spoken and they want a full-time mayor.

“The mayor should work with city manager and help with the day-to-day operations of the city,” he added. “It’s not about me at all. It’s about what’s in the best interest of the city…”

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