SIDNEY — A review of the Sidney City Charter and City Council rules continued Friday morning, March 4, during the Sidney City Council Rules and City Charter Ad Hoc Committee meeting.
Mayor Mardie Milligan, Vice Mayor Steve Wagner, Council member Mike Barhorst, along with City Clerk Kari Egbert, Law Director David Busick and City Manager Andrew Bowsher gathered in City Council Chambers to review and discuss potential changes to the charter and council rules. Although a review of the city of Sidney Charter is required annually, it was noted the last review was conducted in 2020. Also, due to several new or fairly new members on City Council, a new Sidney mayor, vice mayor and city manager, as well as law director, the ad hoc committee was formed for the review.
A council discussion summary from the Jan. 4, 2016, council workshop session, which retired Law Director Jeff Amick had put together, was used as a guide for the Ad Hoc meetings. The discussion summary noted the information submitted was not necessary to imply that charter revisions needed to be made, but rather, to inform council members of potential charter amendments for the ad hoc committee.
The review of the city charter was the first issued the committee tackled, Friday and they are as follows:
1. Charter amendment procedure. The process by which the city’s charter may be amended generally occurs in the following manner:
• Proposal of an amendment by council, staff or citizen;
• Council’s formal consideration of the proposed amendment(s);
• Council’s appointment of a Charter Review Commission, to consider the proposed amendment(s); findings and recommendations to council;
• Council enactment of legislation to submit the proposed amendment(s) to the electorate;
• Secretary of state review of proposed ballot language;
• Vote by the electorate.
2. Estimated costs associated with charter amendment process.
• Special election: $16,000-$17,000;
• Primary or general election: $2,000-$3,000.
3. The potential amendments discussed Friday included:
A. Section 1-3, relating to local home rule authority. Such amendment would provide a means by which the sale of real and personal property which is not needed for any present or anticipated municipal purpose may be sold in a quicker and less expensive manner than is presently provided for in Chapter 721 of the Ohio Revised Code.
Current Charter language does not clearly express an intent that such sales may be accomplished in a means that differs from state law. Recent circumstances involving the sale of property in the vicinity of the airport and adjacent to Riverbend Park illustrate the potential wisdom of such an amendment.
City Manger Andrew Bowsher felt the city may have an issue with the local home rule authority, regarding the Ohio Building. After some discussion, members directed city staff to create more concrete language on this topic to be able to recommend for Sidney City Council to approve.
B. Section 2-17, relating to personal interest. Such amendment would implement a more detailed “conflict of interest” policy and prohibition, specifically requiring any elected official to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and to prohibit the official’s participation in all discussions and any votes regarding the topic about which a conflict of interest may potentially exist. Such amendment may also provide that a failure to disclose a potential conflict of interest could result in removal and make voidable related council action. Present language merely states that no member of council shall “sell any goods to nor render any remunerated services for the city.” Related state statutes are much more prohibitive in nature and affect.
After some discussion, committee members agreed to recommend changing the wording to read, “Council members shall not hold any other public office within Shelby County, or any other office, which the Ohio Attorney General and/or the Ohio Ethics Commission determines to be a conflict of interest, except that of mayor, member of the armed forces or director without pay of a public or private institution.”
C. Section 2-8, relating to vacancies on council. Current language provides a means by which vacancies on council may be filled due to death, resignation or disqualification, but does not take into consideration circumstances involving a vacancy created due to the lack of a qualified candidate for election. Current language could be amended to reflect a means for Council to fill a vacancy created by way of death, resignations, disqualification or for any other reason by which a vacancy in the position may occur.
The committee discussed the various area cities’ policies which Busick advised about on the number of days for which four seats remained empty, especially due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness or death, and what would happen. In the end, members decided to recommend the number of days being 45.
In other business, a review of City Council rules continued. Sidney City Council’s rules have not been amended since 2016.
At the last Ad Hoc meeting on Feb. 16, Council member Barhorst expressed a desire to clearly identify who would fulfill duties for city staff in the absence of both the mayor and vice mayor. They determined the senior most member of council in for time in office would be tapped to be the acting mayor and reside over the meeting, in the mayor and vice mayor’s absence, so there was no need to alter the language. This guidance was taken from Columbus and Cincinnati’s charter, it was noted.
Conflict of interest was the next point discussed for council’s rules. Council members has the responsibility to vote, may abstain if there is a conflict or interest, but not because the member doesn’t want to make a decision, Mayor Mardie Milligan and Barhorst agreed. Committee members determined council members may abstain if they believe there is a conflict of interest.
The committee then looked at some wording in various places to better articulate the intention of definitions.
The next Council Rules and City Charter Ad Hoc Committee meeting date, which was set for Friday, March 11, has been changed and a new date has yet to be set.