Change proposed in council appointment procedure

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 8, 2004

If a proposed ordinance passes, any future discussions regarding the appointment of a council member would be conducted in public.

Council Chairman Jim Tordiff and Councilman Chuck O'Leary have sponsored an ordinance that would require filling a council vacancy to be discussed in an open meeting.

The ordinance was not included on the agenda for tonight's 6 p.m. meeting, but Tordiff said the ordinance could still be heard at the meeting if council votes to waive the rule requiring an ordinance be given to council 24 hours before the meeting.

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As the appointment process is currently defined in the city charter, the council has 30 days to appoint someone to fill any vacant council position. If council cannot do so, the mayor can make an appointment without council's approval.

Tordiff said he realizes the Ohio Revised Code allows for the deliberations regarding council appointments to take place in a closed session, but said he thinks it is more appropriate that these discussions take place in public.

"To me, if you are not willing or interested in putting your name out there for public debate, then you are probably not the right person in the first place," Tordiff said.

This issue surfaced last month when council appointed local businessman Bill Nenni to fill the remaining two years left on Mayor John Elam's council term that expires in November 2005.

Council debated for 25 minutes on whether or not the candidates should be discussed behind closed doors. Tordiff and O'Leary wanted to keep the discussion open, but were outvoted. Tordiff declined to participate in the closed session.

Tordiff and O'Leary both emphasized that they think Nenni has been an excellent addition to the council and that this ordinance is to address the process, not any specific appointment.

Though it was not possible in the most recent situation because it was held in a special meeting, Tordiff said he thinks future appointments could

be conducted at a regular meeting, which would allow for public comment before council started the discussions.

"I just wanted to do this while the issue was not forgotten," Tordiff said. "It has given people a little bit of time to reflect and change their minds. This provides that opportunity."

O'Leary said he thinks it is important that the general public know all the people who show interest in the public offices and that these people be acknowledged.

While O'Leary agreed that someone's personal character or qualities should not be dissected in public, he said candidates should have thick enough skin to take the public scrutiny.

Councilman Richard Price said he wants to read the ordinance before making too many comments, but said he would be against something that would go against the ORC. He said he would prefer the vote to discuss it privately be left to the individual councils.

Though most things should be discussed in public, certain things about individuals and their personalities that may be important should not be discussed openly, he said.

In other business tonight, council will hear the first reading of an ordinance that would authorize Elam to have the city's water tank repaired.

Clear Well No. 1, the concrete water tank that was built in 1917 atop Nixon Hill off of State Route 93, leaks nearly 400,000 gallons of water every day, costing the city more than $5,000 a month, according to estimates by Mark White, part-time superintendent of the city's water treatment plant.

If adopted, the city will enter

a $15,316 contract with Pro Diving Service Inc. out of Akron, Ala., to use a resin sealant to repair the crack in the tank.

The company would have a diver fix the crack so the tank could stay in service during the repair. Different from repairs made to the tank in the past, the project would pay for itself in three or four months and allow at least part of the tank to be used for 5 to 10 more years, White said.

The city plans to install one or two new tanks sometime next year.