By LIBBY CUDMORE • for www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – Though a mayor’s vote is normally limited to breaking ties, the ad hoc Charter Review Committee is recommending that a mayor be part of the search for the city manager, and be allowed a vote along with Common Council to make the appointment.
“Both have to be heavily involved,” said Council member Russ Southard, Sixth Ward. “Otherwise, you don’t have a buy-in. Mayor Dick Miller was heavily involved in the search for the first two city managers.”
The continued clarification of the mayor and city manager’s roles were discussed in length at the charter review meeting this evening. Former Council member Maureen Hennessy had resigned from committee, and Mayor Gary Herzig appointed new Council member John Rafter to take her place.
Among the recommendations was the removal of the public hearing in the case of the city manager’s suspension or removal. “The city manager is a managerial-confidential employee, so he’s not entitled to a public hearing the way some other positions are,” said committee chair John Nader. “A public hearing serves neither the Common Council or the manager.”
However, Nader said, the Council and mayor could elect to put provisions for a hearing into the manager’s contract. “Council shouldn’t limit their own powers under the law,” he said.
Kay Stuligross and Steven Londner, members of the original Charter Revision Commission that created the current charter, were in attendance, but neither could recall why the public hearing was included in the original charter. “What you’re saying about removing it makes a lot of sense,” said Stuligross.
“I think it was a recommendation from the consultation,” said Londner.
But many of the committee members hoped it would never need to be used. “It could be a very different charter if we continue to dismiss city managers,” said Rafter.
“There won’t need to be a different charter,” said Council Member Melissa Nicosia, Second Ward. “Because this one is going to work.”
The “chain of succession” was also clarified so that, should the mayor and acting mayor – written in the charter as “designated Common Council member” – both be unable to perform their duties in an emergency or disaster scenario, the remaining Council members may appoint a person to fill the vacancy.
The next meeting will be held 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20 in the Mayor’s Conference Room, City Hall.
“They’ve put a lot of consideration and thought into this,” said Stuligross. “They’re all invested in the process of producing a document that will work for the city for many years.”