AUBURN — City Manager Clinton Deschene said he assumed, back in 2012 when he started the job, that the city had a long-standing protocol that defined city council and manager roles.
“It was my assumption that this, the oldest form of city manager-council government in Maine, that this did not need to be created, that this was well entrenched and existing in your protocols,” Deschene told councilors and Mayor Jonathan LaBonte at special workshop meeting Monday. “That was one of my biggest assumptions that I think I messed up, that the core basic understanding of how this relationship works was not entrenched from day one.”
Deschene and city councilors worked to remedy that situation Monday night, as Deschene begins his last few weeks as manager.
Councilors reviewed a process to inventory and track projects they care about, as well as covenants councilors and the manager would sign defining their roles and expectations.
Deschene said those instructions did not exist during his time.
“When I was hired, the councilors said, ‘We are here, and we’re the new ones,'” Deschene said. “I didn’t hear anyone saying those protocols needed to be re-established. My understanding of that evolved over time, but by then it was understanding that we would deal with it after the next election.”
Deschene announced this month that he will step down Nov. 15 to take the position of business manager at Presque Isle’s School Administrative District 1.
Assistant City Manager Howard Kroll will take over as interim city manager when Deschene leaves.
The compact says councilors would act in the best interest of the city, but refer complaints and input on city operations through the manager, not directly to city staff, and refrain from making commitments to groups or citizens individually. They would also agree to refrain from public criticism of the administration and city staff.
The manager would agree to keep councilors broadly informed about issues and track projects and policies for them.
Councilors said they would discuss the compact again at a future meeting.