Ensuring Transparency in Staff Reports to City Council
27 June 2020
City Council and its committees often ask staff to prepare reports on a wide range of topics, and to bring those reports back to them for consideration. We had noticed that often, those reports were late. Some of them seemed to never appear.
We were surprised to learn that there was no central tracking system for the reports that City Council and committees requested – City divisions were expected to track them independently. No one in the City administration was monitoring staff or holding them accountable for delivering staff reports on time, or at all. Staff told us that sometimes, Council or committees set unrealistic deadlines, so staff could not be expected to complete all requested reports on time. And sometimes, events made reports unnecessary, they said.
We found that fairness required transparency: the public should know what reports Council had requested from City staff, when they were due, and whether they had been completed on time. We brought this issue to the City Manager’s Office and to the City Clerk’s office. As a result, City Clerk staff developed a log to track requested, completed, and outstanding reports to City committees and Council. They regularly update the log and it is publicly posted on the City’s website.
We understand that the City Manager’s office is also working on a system to better keep track of staff reports and we look forward to the result.