Harrisburg city council members are reacting after learning city employees were sent a letter on behalf of Mayor Linda Thompson, instructing them to clear all requests through her office -- or face possible termination.
The letter, obtained Friday by abc27, was sent earlier this week by human resources director Deborah Felker, and reads as follows:
This Directive is being sent out on behalf Mayor Linda D. Thompson:
TO: ALL CITY EMPLOYEES
The City of Harrisburg is a Third Class City that has adopted the Optional City Charter Plan A (the "Charter"). The Charter became effective January 1, 1970. As such executive power rests with the Mayor. See 53P.S. § 41411. The Charter further details the scope of the Mayor's authority by designating the Mayor as the supervisor of "all the departments of the city government." § 41412. As such, the City's Administrative Code, states that "personnel administration for the City … shall be vested in the Mayor and Department of Administration." § 2-307.7.
Accordingly, any request by City Council or other elected City officials to a City employee to perform work in his/her official capacity must be reported to his/her department director or bureau chief. Only when the request has been approved by the Mayor may the request be acted upon and carried out.
Failure to comply with this Directive will result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. This Directive excludes City employees who report directly to other elected City officials. Please note: The Law Bureau represents City Council in addition to the Mayor. Thus, the Law Bureau is permitted to take direction from City Council in cases in which City Council is the client so long as such representation does not conflict with the Law Bureau's representation of the Mayor.
Department directors and bureau chiefs, please provide staff without access to City email with a copy of this Directive. Please also post this Directive in an area that is visible to all of your staff.
The recent uprooting of a community garden in Harrisburg is what inspired the mayor's office to send the memo, Thompson's spokesman Bob Philbin said.
After receiving complaints about the garden, council members had city employees demolish it. But according to the rules, that should have been cleared by the mayor first.
Council members said enforcing that guideline is an injustice because they too receive and resolve complaints about issues like abandoned homes, illegal dumping overgrown weeds and double-parking.
Council president Wanda Williams told abc27 members will adhere to the memo and send every last complaint to the mayor. Williams said that will overwhelm the mayor's office because there are dozens of complaints a week.
According to the memo, if city council members resolve issues without the mayor's consent, they could be fired.
"Because you're violating your employment," Philbin said. "It's like working for a private entity and simply ignoring a directive from the CEO. You'd be dismissed immediately."
Councilwoman Eugenia Smith told abc27 she replied to the email, and plans to bring up the issue during Tuesday's regular council meeting.
"Talk about power hungry," Smith said. "For the first time in Harrisburg city government, I've never heard of such a thing. This is ridiculous that they would make this so difficult for simple things we are trying to do."