Review of city charter, council rules concludes

By Sheryl Roadcap - [email protected]

SIDNEY — The Sidney City Council Rules and City Charter Ad Hoc Committee concluded the review of the Sidney City Charter and City Council Rules during its Wednesday morning meeting, on March 16.

Mayor Mardie Milligan, Vice Mayor Steve Wagner, Council member Mike Barhorst, along with City Clerk Kari Egbert, and City Manager Andrew Bowsher gathered for one last meeting in City Hall to review and discuss potential changes to recommend Sidney City Council adopt. Law Director David Busick was absent due to other obligations. Although a review of the city of Sidney Charter is required annually, it was 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, served 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 of the two documents tackled by the committee, and the changes discussed Wednesday are as follows:

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 by the city pursuant to certain terms. The committee outlined these rules for competitive bidding opportunities, for the handling of deeds and other documents of conveyance, and the handling of any property that would cost more for the advertisement of its sale than the expected return.

B. Section 2-6, relating to personal interest or restrictions. Confirming what they discussed during the last meeting, committee members agreed to recommend changing the wording to read: “Councilmembers 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, notary, 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.

The committee discussed the number of days for which seats should remain empty before filling the vacancy, 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.

The following language was agreed upon: “Should any council seat be unfilled for any reason, council may, by a majority vote of the members present at a regularly scheduled meeting, fill said vacancy within 45 days of said vacancy being created. After 45 days have elapsed, if the vacancy is unfilled, the mayor may appoint a qualified elector of the city to fill said vacancy. Any appointments made under this Section shall be for the remainder of the vacant term.”

In other business, before moving on to a review of City Council Rules, which have not been amended since 2016, Barhorst said he had been approached by several residents about potentially changing the process for electing the city’s mayor. He noted that Section 2-10 currently allows for council members to elect one of its members to mayor during the term. He said several community members informed him they would like to see the mayor directly elected by the voters.

A brief discussion ensued on this topic, with no committee members objecting to the direct election of mayor, but discussed how the potential change would effect the election process and City Council. At the end of the discussion, members agreed to add it to Section 2-10 to the list of future potential changes.

When moving on to council rules at the beginning of the discussion, members requested City Clerk Kari Egbert update the use of “councilperson” to “councilmember” throughout the document, and the committee agreed upon those changes.

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, it was noted.

The following rewording was agreed upon:

“Subject to the rules set forth hereinafter regarding abstention, each member who is present shall vote on each question when his/her name is called.

Councilmembers may abstain due to a conflict of interest. Councilmembers shall disclose the conflict of interest as a reason for abstention.

Councilmembers are encouraged to contact the city manager and/or law director to discuss any potential ethics concerns or issues.”

The committee also changed some wording in various places to better articulate the intention of definitions.

The changes discussed on City Council Rules and the city charter will be forwarded to the Sidney City Council for consideration of adoption at a future meeting.

By Sheryl Roadcap

[email protected]