Ordinance Will Alter Personnel Status

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Proposed changes in the ordinance on town officers were aired last night at the town council meeting.

Among the changes: giving the town manager the authority to hire and fire all department heads with the exception of the town attorney.

The manager would select and appoint, and have the power to terminate, all department head positions. He would also make personnel decisions for town officers but would need the ratification of the council for hiring. The town manager and attorney would report directly to the council.

Another element is the elimination of the super majority vote (6-1) currently required to terminate the employment of key town officials.

In the event of termination under the proposed rules, the manager would have the authority to dismiss for cause, but the official could appeal to the personnel board, and from there, appeal further to the council.

The council would only need a 4-3 vote to support or reject the action recommended through the appeal process.

"Our code is very confusing at present," Streichman told the council.

Another proposed change reduces the number of positions that are designated as town officers.

Currently the town's officers include: a town manager, a town clerk, a public works director/ town engineer, town attorney, town magistrate, chief fiscal officer, police chief and fire chief.

State law only requires municipalities to designate as officers a town manager, a town clerk, a town attorney, a town engineer, and a town marshal, according to Streichman.

The proposed changes would list as officers only the manager, clerk, attorney, engineer and police chief.

The remaining current town officers would have the designation of department heads.

"The only distinction between town officers and department heads is officers are required by state law," Streichman said.

Debating the proposal, Councilor Judy Buettner said "I'd be willing to cut back on the number of officers, but I would like to see if we could have a 5-2 vote (necessary for ultimate termination)."

Vice Mayor Barbara Brewer and Councilor Dick Wolfe agreed with the proposed compromise of a 5-2 vote.

Mayor Ken Murphy disagreed, "(Our vote would) just uphold a decision of the town manager."

"I still don't see the need. What we have works," Wolfe said.

Councilor Dick Reese said "Give the town manager the authority to manage. I'm in favor of the 4-3 vote."

"The current town manager can be dismissed with a 4-3 vote. We should move ahead and make it a matter of supporting the town manager and (allow a) 4-3 vote. I'm in favor of the proposed change," Councilor Robert Henley said.

Councilor Bryan Siverson pointed out the council uses the 4-3 majority rule to pass $30 million budgets, the town officer issue should not be an exception.

The Feb. 27 presentation was the first reading and hearing, so no vote was taken by the council.

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