HOUSTON Several high-profile resignations are shaking up Houston City Hall as council members struggle to close a $50 to $80 million budget gap.

Late Monday, City Councilmember Anne Clutterbuck stepped down as mayor pro-tem just days after the city s finance director resigned.

It's no secret (Mayor Annise Parker) and I have had occasional differences of opinion, Clutterbuck said. I feel it's important for me to step down. I feel like I've become a distraction to her.

Clutterbuck will remain on City Council, but denied she was planning to run for mayor in 2011.

Finance Director Michelle Mitchell, who was appointed by Parker s predecessor, Bill White, said she was returning to the private sector.

It was mutual agreement with the mayor, Mitchell said. She's ready to go in a different direction. And I'm going to take my little conservative nature (elsewhere).

Another conservative, councilmember Mike Sullivan, will now have a reduced role in one of the legislative body s biggest challenges next year. Sullivan, who has often disagreed with Parker, had been in charge of the committee that oversaw redistricting. That function will now be performed by council as a whole, the mayor said.

The moves came as City Controller Ronald Green said that involuntary furloughs next year will be a reality. He said Tuesday that he expects civilian employees will need to take at least six unpaid days off during the first six months of the year.

Green estimates each of those furlough days will save taxpayers $1 million.

On Wednesday, council members are scheduled to consider whether to amend the city charter and allow the mayor to order mandatory furloughs. Currently, the charter only allows voluntary furloughs, said City Attorney David Feldman.

Amid this political uncertainty, the mayor will soon face her biggest challenges since taking office in January. They include the budget hole, redistricting, a controversial drainage fee and the legal fallout over the banned red-light cameras.

The (Parker) administration doesn't quite have a handle on its relationship with council, said 11 News Political Expert Bob Stein. It's just hard to believe that this administration probably had 12 to 13 years under their belt and yet seems to be operating, like the mayor once said, like rookies.

As she accepted a national community policing award Tuesday afternoon, the mayor downplayed the resignations -- especially Clutterbuck's.

I'm sorry that she doesn't feel that she has a good of a working relationship with some of my senior staff, as she does with me, but this was her decision, Parker said. I tried to talk her out of it.

The mayor s office said Parker was more focused on the tasks at hand: the budget, redistricting and implementing the drainage fee that voters passed in November.

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