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In new guidelines, Rick Kriseman narrows City Council's access to Mayor's Office

During his inauguration last January, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said he wanted to make his office more accessible. However, according to a memo obtained by SaintPetersBlog, Kriseman may be taking a slight step back from that – at least as it pertains to City Council.

On January 9, Kriseman sent a revised copy of the “Efficient Access Guidelines.” That’s a how-to list of ways City Council members should go about finding answers to questions and various other means of correspondence. Kriseman had updated the guidelines last year after he took office.

A side-by-side comparison shows few differences, but those changes could be significant. There are eight bullet points. Of those, half have been altered.

In the very first item instructing council on who to contact with questions about a city process of action in progress, Kriseman had originally listed appropriate administrators, department directors, chief of staff or deputy mayor. The revised version eliminates chief of staff and deputy mayor.

The same goes for another item instructing council on whom they can ask about status updates or background information. In the March 2014 guidelines, Kriseman included deputy mayor and chief of staff. In the revisions, they are both removed from the list and left only with “appropriate administrator or City Administrator.”

Council members are also reminded in the guidelines not to initiate contact with city staff below the director level unless given instruction by the department director or administrator and are not allowed to direct staff to attend or set up meetings. The item advises that if such assistance is needed, “the request should go to the appropriate administrator, the City Administrator or the Mayor.” The updated guidelines add “office” to the end of that statement, meaning council members are no longer instructed to go directly to the mayor, but rather his staff instead.

The changes consistently remove the mayor and his office from the lines of communication and appear to be out of step with Kriseman’s goal of being more accessible. But the changes could be as simple as what the name suggests – that they provide an efficient means of access for council.

In fact, in a note accompanying the updated guidelines, Kriseman explains the changes.

“When I took office, I changed the guidelines from those of former Mayor Foster to provide Council increased interaction with my staff,” he wrote. Kriseman goes on to praise council and his own staff for accomplishing “a great deal” and having many initiatives already implemented and others still in progress.

“However, with this increased level of productivity has come a significant increase on the workload of the staff who research, implement and administer these programs,” Kriseman continued.

Kriseman writes to City Council that “these revised guidelines should better allow Councilmembers to make their concerns and priorities known” and that the communication will be shared with his office, department administrators, senior management and department chiefs. Kriseman also says the changes “should” allow for “better prioritization and coordination of staff efforts.”

Kriseman ends the memo by pointing out questions regarding the changes should be directed to City Attorney John Wolfe or City Administrator Gary Cornwell – not himself or his office.

Written By

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist, editor and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range included covering news, local government and entertainment reviews for Patch.com, technical articles, and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine as well as advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached at phil.ammann@gmail.com.

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