As a City Council Member, there are many possibilities for communicating directly with the citizens. These opportunities include reviewing and responding to written correspondence, listening to public comments during city council meetings, serving as city council liaisons to various citizen committees, and simply meeting with citizens upon their request.
The city recently initiated an online information and request system known as the Surfcity Pipeline. It provides information on many topics. The system also provides a means for a citizen to communicate their views to the City Council or to initiate a request directly with the responsible department. Letter, email, and phone requests to the City Council are entered into the system by Administration staff. Anytime a request or comment is submitted to the City Council, an email notice is sent either to all of the City Council Members or the Council Member specified by the person making the request. Utilizing this system, the following describes the process for responding on communications to the City Council.
Administration coordinates the review and processing of all written correspondence addressed to the City Council. Letters received by citizens are commonly referred to as â€œCitizen Inquiries.â€� This does not include inquiries made directly to a city department.
The existing process for responding to City Council Citizen Inquiries is outlined below. These procedures are followed for all letters addressed to any member of the City Council.
As a general rule, correspondence to the Mayor or a City Council Member is entered into the Surfcity Pipeline and a copy of the letter is attached to the Pipeline request. When a communication is addressed to the City Council, all seven Council Members will receive an email notice that a citizen inquiry for them has been entered. If the nature of the correspondence is a comment on an agenda item or a non-agenda item, an email reply is sent to the citizen thanking them for their comment and indicating that all of the Council Members have received their correspondence. Comments on an agenda item are also forwarded to the City Clerk.
If the inquiry requires action by city staff the process is the same except that a copy of the inquiry is forwarded to the appropriate department and the reply that is sent to the citizen advises them of the department to which their inquiry has been referred.
Correspondence that appears to be of a personal nature (e.g. a handwritten note cards with references to personal matters) is not copied. The occasional derogatory letter will also only be given to the City Council Member to whom it was addressed. In both these instances, staff will not prepare a response unless asked to do so by the Council Member.
Administration has a performance goal of responding to all inquiries within 24 hours for a standard inquiry.
When an inquiry is assigned to another department. the assigned department is responsible for responding to the citizen. The established performance goal for a department responding to the resident is 10 working days from the date they receive the inquiry.
Can City Council Members Respond to Citizen Inquires?
A City Council Member always has the prerogative to contact the individual, schedule a meeting, or send them a letter. If a City Council Member wishes to initiate further follow-up on an inquiry, it is important to do so by forwarding the follow-up through Administration staff. This helps assure that the inquiry is directed appropriately and duplicate efforts are not being made.
Responding To Requests For Meetings By Citizens
It is generally a good idea for a City Council Members to establish specific office hours for meetings with citizens and/or staff. This helps the Council's Administrative Assistant in knowing when meetings with the public can be scheduled. Often, citizens will want to speak to the Mayor because of the status associated with this position. There are times, however, when a citizen will ask to meet with a specific City Council Member and/or any or all of the Council Members.
Depending upon the nature of the request, the City Council's Administrative Assistant will take one of the following actions.
- Schedule the meeting and then notify the Council Member.
- Tell the resident that she will have to check with the City Council Member(s) and return their call within a specific time.
- If it is determined that the citizen has not spoken to the appropriate department staff regarding an administrative issue, the City Council Administrative Assistant may assist them by directing them to the responsible department or by asking them to submit their request in writing either through the Surfcity Pipeline, or by sending a letter.
- When a meeting is scheduled, if it seems appropriate, the City Council's Administrative Assistant may ask the responsible department head or a member of their staff to attend the meeting to assist the Council Member in responding to the inquiry.
Meetings will not be scheduled if the subject matter deals with a traffic citation or if the issue is the subject of current litigation.
Your personal preferences regarding the above procedure should be communicated directly to the City Council's Administrative Assistant.
Each City Council Member has a desktop computer in their office and a laptop computer that can be taken home to use for city business. It is important to keep in mind that your city computer could be subject to a Public Records Act request regardless of where it is being used. Documents created and/or stored on your city computer and communications via the city computer or city computer system may be viewed as a public record. This also applies to communications sent through the city email and sent or received via your city Blackberry.
When you receive your computer, you will be given a user name and will need to select a password. Your password will need to be changed every six months. (You will receive a notification from the system when you it is time for you to change your password.) You will also be asked to sign the city's internet policy as are all city employees.
The Council Administrative Assistant keeps a master calendar of all City Council Member's activities. An individual calendar is also maintained for each City Council Member. You may access your individual calendar and respond to e-mails using your desktop computer or remotely through your laptop computer or handheld (Blackberry) device. Changes to the City Council master calendar may only be made by the Council Administrative Assistant or the person in the City Administrator's office providing backup.
Communications from the Public Received by E-mail
If you receive an email communication from a citizen and would like staff follow up, it should be forwarded to the City Council's Administrative Assistant or the City Administrator Executive Assistant. Currently, the City Council Administrative Assistant is Cathy Fikes. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Acting Executive Assistant to the City Administrator is Johanna Stephenson. Her email address is Johanna.Stephenson@surfcity-hb.org .
City Council Computer Files
Please be advised that there are two locations to save your files on your city computers. Your C-Drive (My Documents) Items stored on your C-Drive are not accessible by anyone but you. There is also a shared drive, the G-Drive. Files you wish to share with staff or on which you want staff review should be stored here, under your specific folder. The Council's Administrative Assistant or another member of Administration staff can assist you on saving documents.
Each City Council Member has a direct phone line. Messages on your direct line can be retrieved through your office phone or from outside city hall utilizing the city's message pick-up procedure. As a general practice, your direct line will be listed on your city business cards. Unless otherwise specified, calls to your direct line will not be picked up by staff so that you can retrieve them as you have time. If you prefer to have your calls picked up by staff, it is best to use the City Council Administrative Assistant's phone number, (714) 536-5553 on your business card. Some Council Members have opted to list their personal phone number on their business cards. Please be sure to let the City Council Administrative Assistant know your preference.
Administration staff is available during working hours (7:30 to 5:30) to answer the City Council's main line.
Please be informed that there is an established policy relative to use and reimbursement on city-owned desktop telephones and cellphones, Administrative Regulation 309.
Voice Mail Messages
Calls that are received on the main City Council's phone line but intended for an individual Council Member will be transferred to your voice mail (unless you specifically direct otherwise). Unless otherwise requested, it is anticipated that each City Council Member will listen to messages in his or her voice mail. Voice mails may be retrieved from the office phone or offsite both locally and from long distance locations. Instructions for retrieving your messages are included in this chapter. If needed, Administration staff can assist you with retrieving message from your office phone. To access voice mails from a remote location, please dial the appropriate phone number listed below and follow the commands.
From within the 714 Area Code: 714-374-1595
From outside the 714 Area Code: 877-326-3568 (toll free)
PUBLIC RECORDS ACT
As a public agency, the City is governed by the Public Records Act regarding the release of public documents. A public record is a record maintained by the city in its normal course of business that has not been destroyed pursuant to the destruction of records scheduled in accordance with the city's Record Retention Schedule. Confidential documents (e.g. closed session materials and attorney-client-privileged materials), as well as the exempted records identified by the Government Code, are not required to be disclosed. The State Attorney's "Guidelines for Access to Public Records" is included here as a reference.
Related Resource Material:
- AR 605 - Computer System, E-Mail, and Internet Network Use
- Telephone System Helps
- AR 309 - Telephone and Reimbursement Procedure