HOLD TIGHT: Council must not repeal rule requiring approval of certain purchases

Published 10:26 am Monday, November 23, 2020

The new Selma City Council, as well as Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., are obviously working diligently to foster unity between the city’s executive and legislative branches, taking great pains to maintain civility during a somewhat heated meeting last week, but the council must absolutely avoid bending to all of the mayor’s requests in the interest of unity.

Specifically, Perkins’ request last week that the council revisit and repeal previously-approved financial oversight rules must be rebuffed without apology.

The previous council put in place a requirement that the mayor’s office must seek approval for any purchases over $5,000 in order to keep the previous mayor’s spending in check – nothing, even a new mayor, should suggest that that rule should be repealed or even adjusted.

To be sure, Perkins rightfully took issue with several of the previous council’s actions – the plan for spending COVID-19 funds should absolutely have been drafted more formally than a numbered list in an email and the requirement that the council president sign off on contracts could very well be amended to make the process more convenient for the city’s executive – but the approval requirement for expenditures over $5,000 in no way poses an issue where decisive action is required.

While there is no indication that Perkins will operate the way the previous mayor did – he has already shown a willingness to be open with the press  and the public about what’s going on in the city – there is no reason for the council to surrender its oversight powers where the city’s finances are concerned.

Indeed, what could be gained from allowing the mayor – either this one, the previous one or any other to come – to simply spend as much money as he or she likes without a nod of approval from the council who, like the mayor, was elected by the people to manage the city’s affairs?

The move does not tie the mayor’s hands in making quick decisions – an emergency meeting of the council could easily be called to approve a legitimate and necessary expenditure – and simply allows for another contingent of eyes and minds to parse the city’s financial moves, possibly finding ways that money can be saved or better put to use.

Additionally, the mayor should be thankful for a policy that allows all of the city’s elected officials to sign off on the expenditure of funds, which are often in short supply in Selma.

The administration’s efforts toward unity should absolutely be celebrated, but they should never be allowed to stand in the way of doing what’s right for the city.