City Manager Todd W. Argow implemented unusual, and potentially unethical, procedures that may have favored incumbents during the recent City Council election, said Acting Secretary of State Tony Miller.
In a Feb. 2 memo, Argow instructed all department heads to "remember that our loyalties lie with the existing" City Council members and ordered them to inform him when council candidates requested information or documents on city policies and projects.
If the incumbents benefited from Argow's efforts, the results of the election did not seem to reflect it--two of the three on the ballot were defeated.
Still, Argow's order potentially muddied what should be an atmosphere of neutrality at City Hall during an election, Miller said.
"It does raise the specter of impropriety to the extent that it implies that the city employees should be other than neutral," Miller said. "In the election business, the appearance (of impropriety) is very important in undermining the integrity of the process to the public. I'm not aware of anything criminal, but it does raise one's eyebrows."
Argow said he regrets using the word loyalties, but he defended his memo as a reminder to his staff to continue serving the council with gusto despite the additional pressures of an election.