Nina Bifolchi

Newsroom – Relationship Builders and Destroyers

“Relationship Builders and Destroyers”
Posted Friday September 11, 2015

I recently read an article in Municipal World Magazine called Relationship Builders and Destroyers. Municipal World is a great magazine that is Canada wide, has existed since 1891 and provides insight by experts regarding various municipal issues. (

The article I am speaking to was written by George B. Cuff. Mr. Cuff has written dozens of magazine articles, is the author of various books/guides for Municipal Leaders, a governance expert and has been involved in local government in one way or another since 1970.

Mr. Cuff states a number of things in his article that are very insightful. If you want to read his full article and many other interesting insights from experts, I suggest you visit the municipal world website.

Mr. Cuff says:

Role Clarity:
“In my experience, the most common failure in any council-management relationship is that of role clarity. While that may sound simple and thus easy to overcome, it is anything but. I am continually amazed that some members of council think their task and principal function is to “manage” the municipality. One would think that the compensation paid to a member of council in comparison to that of management might be a signal that the roles of each are considerably different. Further, one would think that the fact that the role of a chief administrative officer (as well as some of the other senior staff) is highlighted in the legislation should bear witness to the quaint notion that this is a significant role with complex responsibilities. And yet, inevitably, some soul on council will see it as his or her duty to criticize and undermine the CAO or other members of management and/or ridicule their performance and not be overly concerned with the damage being caused to individuals, as well as overall productivity.”


“The fact that being elected bestows at least some degree of power to the new office holder might seem both apparent and of little consequence. After all, every council is made up of a number of such folks and presumably anyone who is likely to be caught up by the heady winds of power should quickly be reined in by those more mature. So one would think. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, and when it does, considerable damage has often already been visited upon the organization. One radical and ill-intended councillor, equipped with a belligerent style and equally obnoxious voice, can intimidate those who thought everyone was as well-intended as he or she – or as mature. I have dealt with councils who are cowed into silence and who may leave the council rather than tackle the problems face to face. Spending four years opposite a bully and being paid peanuts for the privilege is not what most signed on for – nor is the damage done to their own reputations seemingly worth the ongoing trauma. For some folks on councils across Canada, their appetite for power and their growing sense of community clout can distort the ability of their council to function effectively and with any degree of harmony. Powermongers simply do not care. They are self-seeking in the extreme and anyone crossing them or trying to thwart their ambitions had better be ready to fight in the trenches because few in this category go quietly into the night.”

I would like to thank Mr. Cuff and all others who contribute to the Municipal World Magazine. Your insight into such a variety of issues is certainly appreciated by me.