Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION: Keeping the camel’s nose out of someone else’s tent

“The camel's nose is a metaphor for a situation where the permitting of a small, seemingly innocuous act will open the door for larger, clearly undesirable actions.” – Wikipedia.

This community opinion was contributed by Hollister Councilman Marty Richman. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

Hollister’s mayor is asking the City Council to grant him special powers to put his nose under the city staff’s tent by attending director staff meetings held by the city manager. That idea sounds harmless, but it’s not; it violates important city policies, several previously voted for by the mayor himself.

Per the Municipal Code, the city manager is the administrative head of the city government and he or she is under the direction and control of the city council acting as a body. All staff but the city clerks, city attorney and treasurer report to the city manager.

The adopted city “norms” directs all to “abide by the separation of responsibilities between the Council and the City Manager and staff.”

The city protocols also detail the equality of all the city council members:

“It is important to note that the City Council acts as a body. No member has any extraordinary powers beyond those of other members. While the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tempore have some additional ceremonial and administrative responsibilities, in the establishment of policies, voting and in other significant areas, all members are equal. It is also important to note that policy is established by at least a majority vote of the City Council.”

Yet the mayor proposes that he, and only he, be allowed to attend the city manager staff meetings. He has not provided any reasonable justification and there is a significant risk that the mayor will intentionally or unintentionally influence the staff.

That is also in violation of city protocols which state that it “is necessary to protect staff from undue influence and pressure from individual City Council Members, and to allow staff to execute priorities given by management and the City Council as a whole. The full City Council retains the power to accept, reject, amend, influence, or otherwise guide and direct staff actions, decisions, recommendations, workload and schedules, departmental priorities and the performance of City business.”

Finally, any influence would amount to governing in secret, since these are closed meetings. Hollister’s form of government does not grant these powers to any elected official, just the opposite.

Beware, if you let a camel put his nose in the tent, pretty soon you’ll be the one sleeping outside.


Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.