COLUMBIA — City Manager Bill Watkins might get a seating demotion.
City Council voted 6-0 Monday to allow the mayor to decide where council members and the city manager should sit. Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala originally raised the issue at the Feb. 15 meeting because the city manager is not an elected official.
Ken Green, a Columbia resident, said the arrangement makes it look like the city manager has as much power as the council, if not more.
"Why does our City Council give our manager a seat, and dead center to boot?" Green said. "The city manager works for the council, which in turn works for the citizens of Columbia."
"I think perception has a lot to do with it," Skala said.
Skala said all of the council members reached a compromise in an informal meeting to allow the mayor to choose where everyone should sit.
"The only reason I requested this resolution was to make sure we were legitimately codifying the procedure for the public," Skala said. "I'm certainly in support of the compromise that was reached."
Watkins said he assists the mayor with procedural items, but he is not opposed to sitting elsewhere.
"I really don't care where I sit, honestly," Watkins said.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said this decision might also open up the possibility of other seating changes. She suggested future arrangements might be based on seniority, instead of the Sixth Ward seat being "forever relegated to the side."
Watkins also said the dais is set up to accommodate future council members, if the electorate ever decides to add more.
Seat order was not decided because Mayor Darwin Hindman did not attend the meeting.