Chiefs topic for charter panel

STEUBENVILLE – The Charter Review Commission agreed on Thursday to consider changing how future police and fire chiefs are hired.

“I have heard comments from city residents regarding the current process used to select the police and fire chiefs. I don’t care either way. But I am putting this out for discussion,” commission member Jim Mavromatis said.

A majority of the commission members tentatively agreed to consider new charter language that would allow the city administration to advertise for candidates interested in future police and fire chief vacancies.

Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi was named to the top position after he scored first on a Civil Service Commission exam. But Police Chief Bill McCafferty was named to fill his position by the city manager under the terms of a federal consent decree and was not required to take a Civil Service Commission exam.

Mavromatis said he is not opposed to filling the police chief position from the police department ranks.

“Our job is to bring the charter up to today’s standards. I want the best for our city. I have had numerous citizens tell me they want to see changes in the charter. This change will give the flexibility where the next chief can be hired from the outside or from within the department. It will be from five to eight years before this would actually go into effect,” said Mavromatis.

In other business, the commission agreed to include candidates with experience as county administrators to be eligible for the city manager position.

The commission reviewed the charter language governing the city’s board and commissions and discussed the possibility of term limits for board members.

Commission members indicated the proposal to name the city engineer to serve as the acting city manager during a temporary vacancy may be revisited.

“I have had a number of phone calls about that proposed change. It is something we will need to look at again when we go over the charter a second and third time,” noted commission member Aldo Isadore.

The commission had agreed to name the city engineer to serve as acting city manager at last week’s review meeting.

“I am putting out for some thought and discussion the idea the city finance director should be considered to serve as an acting city manager. The finance director deals with the budget issues in the city. You are preparing the city for a succession policy,” Mavromatis said last week.

“I think the city engineer would be better versed in all departments and would be a better acting city manager,” responded Isadore during last week’s meeting.

The commission already has agreed to consider eight-year term limits for the mayor and city council positions.

Commission Chairman John J. Mascio said the commission has not made a final decision on proposed changes.

“We will review the entire charter and once we are finished, we will review it again and listen to testimony before writing a final recommendation,” said Mascio.

Commission members also discussed changing the salaries for council members and the mayor’s job in executive session.

Mascio declined to discuss the details of the salary proposal.

Council members currently receive $3,900 annually, while the mayor is paid $4,900.

All commission meetings are held at the Historic Fort Steuben Visitors Center.

The commission has been meeting to review each paragraph in the city charter that was adopted in 1984 by the city voters. The document was reviewed in 1987 and again in 1992.

Mucci’s proposed timeline calls for all hearings to be completed by May.

“You may find out the language may be satisfactory. Or you may hear suggestions about changes. This is a review commission. You are not here to change the form of city government,” explained Mucci.

City voters eventually will approve or reject the proposed changes to the charter.

Mucci also said the commission should forward any proposed changes to City Council by July so the proposed changes can appear on the November general election ballot.