Earlier this year I began a discussion thread about what changes to the executive branch would complement an allotted legislature, since the sortition literature I know of seems to say so little about the executive branch. At the time, Terry Bouricius and I were working on a paper on that subject for an online publication called the Systems Thinking World Journal. The paper was recently published, and is available online at this address – http://stwj.systemswiki.org/?p=1717.
Here is the part of the paper that summarizes the proposal (note: we are assuming that the legislative branch is organized according to Terry’s “multibody sortition” design).
Chief Executive, Department Heads, and Hiring Panels
The Chief Executive. The President, Prime Minister, Governor, Mayor, etc. — would have substantially less power than she or he usually does today. The Chief Executive of a jurisdiction would be primarily an administrator and a policy advisor, not a policy maker – similar to the role of City Manager or City Administrator, used in many U.S. municipalities. The legislative branch would make most policy decisions. The primary tasks of the Chief Executive, and executive branch department heads, would be to manage implementation of policies, to advise about policies from the perspective of implementation, and to propose policy options at the request of the legislative branch. In actual practice the distinction between policy and administration would often be “fuzzy” and contested, but the decisions would be made based on the principle of separating policy from administration.
The Chief Executive would have no power to veto legislation, or to enact “quasi-legislation” (as Presidents do in the U.S. through executive orders, for example). In the same way, department heads could not make policy by unilaterally writing regulations – the legislative branch would be the final decision-maker, unless this power was expressly delegated for a specific purpose and for a defined period, and allowed by the Rules Council. However, the Chief Executive and department heads would play important roles in advising the legislative branch about legislation, and in making proposals for legislation or regulations at the request of the legislative branch.
While Chief Executives and department heads could be removed from office at any time (as described below), there would be no need for term limits. Good executives might serve for decades.
Hiring panels. The Chief Executive would not be elected. Instead, they would be chosen by a Chief Executive Hiring Panel. The panel’s members would be randomly selected from the citizenry. They would serve as long as necessary to make a hiring decision, and then disband. If someone was chosen and didn’t want to serve, they could “opt out” and be replaced by another randomly selected person. This “opt out” feature would result in a body that was more descriptively representative of the people than an “opt in” design that required people to proactively volunteer.
The Chief Executive would hire department heads, but these appointments would require review and confirmation by other randomly selected, one-time Hiring Panels. In most cases the confirmation procedures would likely be pro forma, but the confirmation requirement would act as a check on hiring decisions based on nepotism or cronyism.
Review and Accountability
Performance review panels. In order to hold the Executive Branch accountable, a randomly selected Performance Review Panel would periodically review the performance of the Chief Executive, and similar panels would review the performance of each department head (or group of department heads, depending on the size of the departments). Performance review of middle and lower level executive branch staff would be handled entirely within the executive branch, by the administration and the public employees’ union.
If a Chief Executive were fired, the Performance Review Panel would not have the power to hire their replacement, because this would give the Performance Review Panel an incentive to corruptly fire an incumbent in order to choose a favorite of their own, and perhaps get a corrupt reward. Instead, a separate Hiring Panel would choose the new Chief Executive.
Performance Review panels would review the performance of executives and their organizations, based on goals and constraints in the plan and the budget, and require corrective action as needed. They would also provide feedback to planning bodies about possible changes to plans and budgets. A Review Panel could also initiate a procedure to fire an executive, but a randomly selected Accountability Jury would make the final decision.
Performance Review Panels would be organized along three dimensions. Some of them would review the performance of particular departments. Others would review the performance of the Executive Branch as a whole in terms of outcomes for particular communities (geographic, ethnic, age, etc.). Others would review the performance of the Executive Branch in terms of particular issues, such as public safety, environment, and social justice.
Accountability juries. When a Performance Review Panel initiated a firing procedure, a randomly selected Accountability Jury would hear the arguments, weigh the evidence, and make the final decision. When a Chief Executive fired a department head, that person would have the right to appeal to an Accountability Jury, who could decide to uphold the executive’s decision or to re-instate the fired staff member. Accountability Juries would be much like criminal juries – very descriptively representative, serving for a short time, excused from work, and paid a stipend.
Setting the Rules and Supporting the Process
Rules council. The Rules Council would make the rules for the processes of hiring and firing the Chief Executive, and reviewing the performance of the Executive Branch. This separation of powers would reduce the incentives to make rules “strategically,” in order to increase the chances of particular short-term outcomes. Rules Council members would be randomly selected from among people who had previously served on some other randomly selected body, so that they would have first-hand experience with the current rules. They would serve 3-year terms (with one third of members replaced each year), but they would not be allowed to serve consecutive terms. They would be well compensated. If someone was chosen and didn’t want to serve, they could “opt out” and be replaced by another randomly selected person. Because of the long term and the challenging (and for many people, uninteresting) work, it is likely that many people would decline service, and thus this body would not be as descriptively representative as a short-term policy jury. However, it would be far more descriptively representative than any existing legislature, board or commission.
Oversight council. This body would monitor the processes of executive branch accountability (as described above), to ensure that the rules were followed, and also alert the Rules Council in cases where observation of practice indicated that the rules might need changing. This body would not make rules, hire or fire executives, or review performance. However, they could initiate and refer cases to a Performance Review Panel or Accountability Jury. The Oversight Council’s members would be selected by lot. If someone was chosen and didn’t want to serve, they could “opt out” and be replaced by another randomly selected person. Oversight Council members would serve 3-year terms (with one third of members replaced each year), but they would not be allowed to serve consecutive terms. Oversight Council members would be well compensated.
Support staff. When oversight bodies get their information from staff members of the bodies that they are supposed to oversee, it can hinder their independence and their ability to supervise effectively. Therefore, these oversight bodies would require the assistance of their own professional support staff, organizationally separated from the staff in the executive branch.