Mayor Tartaro Wants To Be Copied on All Council Emails to Staff

Some council members balk at request, saying mayor lacks authority to control how they reach out to staff.

wants members of the City Council to include him on all emails they send to city department directors. But he's being met with resistance by some city council members who say the mayor's office is overstepping its bounds.

The directive was communicated through a memo sent by Tartaro on June 22 to each member of the city council, as well as and the heads of the city's police, public works, code enforcement and recreation and arts departments. A copy of the memo was provided to Hyattsville Patch by an anonymous source.

In the memo, Tartaro directed city council members to communicate with department directors only through emails addressed to the acting city administrator. Department directors may be included in those email, according to the memo, but the response would be issued through the acting city administrator's office.

Most controversially, Tartaro also directed that he be included in all emails sent by council members seeking information from city department directors. 

(Ward 2), who aligns Tartaro issues council , said that the memo formalizes a practice which council members should already have been adhering to.

"This is just putting down on paper the policy that I understood back when I went onto council a few years ago," said Hiles by phone. "If we wanted to get things done with staff, the way we were supposed to do it, is send the request not to the city staff member but to the city administrator."

But said that the Mayor cannot dictate how the council interacts with staff or constituents.

"Clearly he doesn't understand that the council doesn't report to the mayor," said Hollingsworth in an interview. "He may be confused by that fact."

Tartaro wrote in the memo that the directive was crafted in response to an abusive tone which had taken root in some emails sent by current council members to city staff. 

"At best, these communications squander limited staff resources," wrote Tartaro. "At worst, they create an openly hostile work environment."

"Our department directors have little choice but to treat many of these messages as direction, with the clear implication that failure to respond promptly and thoroughly will result in negative action," wrote Tartaro. "I remind you, once again, that policy matters are decided by the entire council."

Hollingsworth conceded that communication between elected officials and government staff can sometimes interfere with the function of government services or give rise to the appearance of corruption. But she said that the vast majority of council interactions with staff come as a result of constituent services. For instance, a city council member may try to get in contact with a member of the code enforcement team if a constituent has a question about obtaining a work permit or code violation.

Hollingsworth said that the mayor's directive points to a larger issue within Hyattsville's government: increased safeguarding of public information by the mayor and the city's closed-door executive committee which sets the agenda for each council meeting. 

"I don't think the staff members are comfortable sharing anything at this point, because they don't know if the mayor wants it release," said Hollingsworth. "I wouldn't want to work in that environment."

took umbrage at the directive.

"I thought it was amusing," wrote Warner in an email to Patch. "The mayor would be more effective if he were to deal with his colleagues as professionals."

Citing travel between Ocean City, Hyattsville and Texas, Tartaro was unable to be interviewed by Patch for this story. 

BigDan June 28, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Lucky! I wish I had enough to get out of here! Ever since some idiot got the bright idea to revamp rt 1 while ignoring the rest of the entire town this place has gone down hill. Safeway's gone, the Giant is going down hill. And the neighborhoods are getting worse and worse. 400k to live next to a set of train tracks. Who the heck moves into those eya eyesores anyway? Can you take me with you Lori??? Please?
MJ June 28, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Just when you thought things could got not get more ridiculous and dysfunctional! Too bad there is no policy from the mayor on how council members should reply, copy, or deal with constituent communications - that would be more useful and helpful. I've asked about this and there is none, which is frustrating and doesn't make sense to me. Then I read this "decree" which just makes me nuts when my and others' emails to the council have been ignored. I agree with Dan's comment - he's right. I too have experienced it and talented people do leave - but what's really sad is when leadership does not exist at the top level -- staff and/or Board/council levels - things do not grow/improve and opportunities are missed. The situation with the council is so unhealthy and out of control. The way things went with the budget is a great example of things failing and of our mayor's need to control and manipulate. The thing that concerns me is Hyattsville needs a mayor who has the big picture in mind - engaging in activities to improve Hyattsville, bring attention to this great community, support the new and existing businesses, motivate the council to work together well and to be in touch with and support their constituents, work with staff (not micromanage) and support them to keep things running, growing, improving. In other words a real city leader. Macro-view - not micro view. It actually is depressing because I love this place.
Lori Fuller June 28, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Dan, I feel your pain. I grew up in Hyattsville. My parents bought in Hyattsville in the 60's and grandparents owned the house I'm leaving, with sadness, since the 30's. When the local government decided to go in the development business and ignore the tax hardship on people facing foreclosure, I was fit to be tied. The final nail in the coffin was the garden that took away our park while I and none of my neighbors had any say about. This town has been hijacked and at this point, they can have it. I hope Tartaro's inbox is inundated to the point of failure and crashes. Micromanage that!
Scurvy June 28, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Does any of this surprise you. Our mayor is a control freak who surrounds himself with sycophants. I have never seen it this bad in my fourteen years in Hyattsville.
Chris Currie June 29, 2012 at 02:46 AM
It sounds heavy-handed, but this type of thing isn't surprising when you have a Council of 11 members and they all have caseloads and agendas. There is a temptation on the part of Councilmembers to assume executive authority, which they don't have. When I was on Council, there was a point when former City Administrator Elaine Murphy promulgated a policy whereby all Councilmembers' communications with department staff would go through her. While a cc: to the Mayor wasn't required, as I recall, I would copy Mayor Gardiner on my own initiative, since I wasn't confident my requests would get through, otherwise. Probably a more useful policy would be to distinguish between ordinary constituent service calls -- the kind of contacts citizens could make on their own to City staff -- and policy-related communications. The latter kind, it seems to me, should at least have a cc: to the City Administrator, if not the Mayor. Even on constituent-service communications, though, Councilmembers need to realize that they are not staff's boss. If there is some directive involved, it needs to come from the staff member's supervisor, not the Councilmember. Of elected officials, only the Mayor has executive authority, and even his authority is fairly limited under Hyattsville's charter.


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