Protocol for City Council Interaction with Staff

The City of Huntington Beach is a charter city and operates under the council-administrator form of government. According to Sections 400 and 401 of the City Charter, the City Administrator is the chief administrative officer of the city and shall be responsible to the City Council for the proper administration of all its affairs. The City Administrator is appointed by a majority vote of the City Council and serves at their pleasure.

Section 307 further states the following City Council protocol with respect to staff.

"Except as otherwise provided in this Charter, no member of the City Council shall order, directly or indirectly, the appointment by the City Administrator, or by any of the department heads in administrative service of the City, of any person to any office or employment, or removal therefrom. Except for the purpose of investigation and inquiry, the members of the City Council shall deal with the administrative service under the jurisdiction of the City Administrator solely through the City Administrator, and no member of the City Council shall give orders to any subordinate of the City Administrator, either publicly or privately."

Protocol with the City Administrator and Department Heads

As described above, the City Charter defines the lines of communication between the City Council and staff. It prescribes that the City Administrator will be the point person between the City Council and staff. Department heads and the Deputy City Administrators report directly to the City Administrator; the City Administrator reports directly to the City Council.

Sections 401 of the City Charter also specifies the powers and responsibilities of the City Administrator. The City Administrator's duties are described below.

"Except as otherwise provided in this Charter, the City Administrator shall be responsible to the City Council for the proper administration of all affairs of the City. Without limiting this general grant of powers and responsibilities, the City Administrator shall have the power and be required to:

Deputy City Administrators

Section 402 of the City Charter names the Assistant City Administrator as the Acting City Administrator during the temporary absence of the City Administrator.

During any temporary absence or disability of the City Administrator, the Assistant City Administrator shall serve as Acting City Administrator. During any temporary absence or disability of both the City Administrator, and the Assistant City Administrator, the City Administrator shall appoint one of the other officers or department heads of the City to serve as Acting City Administrator. In the event the City Administrator fails to make such appointment, such appointment may be made by the City Council.

Existing Practices

While the City Charter delineates the formal lines of communication between staff and City Council Members, below is a summary of guidelines we hope will assist City Council Members in having their issues addressed and their questions answered.

During City Council Meetings

It is preferable to address all questions, requests, or comments to the City Administrator. Since the Deputy City Administrators and all department heads sit directly in front of the City Council, it is natural to miss this step and begin asking them questions directly.

However, in an effort to maintain the reporting relationships specifically addressed in the City Charter, it is recommended that all questions be addressed to the City Administrator. The City Administrator will then answer the question directly, redirect the question, or assign follow-up to the appropriate department head.

Update Meetings with the City Administrator

The City Administrator has regularly scheduled meetings with each City Council Members. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss issues and answer questions. Based on these meetings, the City Administrator will assign specific tasks for follow-up by the respective department head. To help staff in meeting your needs, City Council Members please bring any requests for information or issues of concern to these update meetings so they can be assign to staff for response. To assure proper follow up, it helpful to have issues and concerns brought to the attention of the City Administrator.

Requests for Information

City Council Members may occasionally request information directly from departments. These requests are differentiated from reports and studies. The guideline that is established for this is whether the request can be completed in less than four hours (Administrative Regulation 102).

Reports and studies that require more than four hours to compile and prepare require City Council approval and direction to the City Administrator. If the department head believes that the requested information will require more than four hours to complete, he or she will notify the City Administrator regarding the request. The City Administrator will advise the Council Member to submit an H-Item to the City Council for approval.

Written Correspondence

Interoffice memorandums from the City Council should be sent directly to the City Administrator. The City Administrator will forward all communications to the appropriate department head and advise the City Council Member regarding follow-up.

Telephone Communication

City Council Members may contact department heads directly regarding specific questions that can be answered with a brief response. In the event that the request will result in more than four hours of staff resources, the department head will advise the City Administrator per the steps outlined above.


Each City Council Member has a mailbox located adjacent to the Council Secretary's desk. Each Council Member also has a message slot on the Council Secretary desk. All correspondence from staff and the public is placed in one of these two locations. Generally, large items and less pressing items are placed in your mailbox. Smaller items and those of a more immediate nature will be placed in your message slot. Each City Council Member is responsible for reading his/her mail on a routine basis.

Email Communications:

Many communications these days are done by email. The City makes available to each Council Member a blackberry devise to facilitate email communications and scheduling. City Council Members are encouraged to carry these with them and check them regularly for scheduling updates and other important notices.

Related Resource Material:

1. IMCA -Questions & Answers about the Council-Manager Form of Government
2. Administrative Regulation - 102
3. League of CA Cities Email & the Brown Act

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