Charter review commission to face major issues

STEUBENVILLE – The Charter Review Commission will discuss how future police and fire chiefs should be chosen when they meet Thursday.

The commission members also will meet in executive session during the 10 a.m. meeting to discuss changing the salaries for council members and the mayor.

Council members currently receive $3,900 annually, while the mayor receives $4,900 a year.

Commission Chairman John J. Mascio has indicated the panel has considered changing the salaries and eliminating health care benefits for the elected officials.

Mascio said the commission will hold a public evening meeting before submitting the final tentative document to City Council.

The charter review commission meets at 10 a.m. on Thursdays at the Historic Fort Steuben Visitors Center.

The selection of the top jobs in the police and fire departments has been debated for several weeks with Commission member Jim Mavromatis lobbying in favor of allowing outside candidates to apply for the position along with eligible department members while other Commission members have been reluctant to support that idea.

“Why tie the city’s hands? I believe the eligible candidates in the departments should still be able to take the Civil Service exam for chief, but I also think the city should have the ability to allow outside candidates to take the test. I would like to know if a collective bargaining agreement can overrule a charter,” said Mavromatis.

During the Thursday meeting city resident Michael McIntyre urged the commission to require City Council to put council meetings on the Internet or television.

“People will come to the council meetings if they feel involved in the process,” said McIntyre.

“One of my personal goals is to keep as much flexibility as possible in the charter. I am not in a position to dictate to council they should televise council meetings. I think they should but I don’t want to mandate it,” responded Commission member Aldo Isadore.

The Commission added language to the proposed charter language requiring the City Council to fill a vacancy if no one runs for a council seat at the next council meeting.

The Commission agreed to include language in the proposed charter calling for the city engineer to serve as acting city manager in the event of a temporary vacancy.

“We have talked about the mayor serving as acting city manager and we currently have Mayor Domenick Mucci who does an exceptional job. But we may have someone new as the mayor in the future,” added Isadore.

“The mayor is usually a political person. But the engineer is a nonpolitical position,” interjected city resident Bill Isaac.

Additional language changes in the proposed charter include reviewing the charter at least every 10 years.

So far the Commission has proposed term limits for council members and the mayor.

The panel also has written tentative language that will broaden the eligibility for future city manager candidates that states the successful candidate must have an undergraduate degree in public administration, business administration, accounting or related fields and at least one of the following:

– Two years of experience as a manager/administrator or assistant manager/administrator for any municipality or county or two years of comparable experience, or;

– At least five years of experience as an executive officer or chief fiscal officer of a business or governmental entity.

The Charter Review Commission started its review in November.

The Commission meets in public session at 10 a.m. on Thursdays at the Historic Fort Steuben Visitors Center.

The original city charter was approved by voters in 1984 and was reviewed in 1987 and again in 1992.

Mucci set a tentative timeline for the Commission calling for all public hearings to be completed by May.

“The commission will review all suggestions by June 2014 and finalize any proposed changes to the City Council by July 2014. The council may adopt a resolution containing changes to the charter and forward the suggested changes to the Jefferson County Board of Elections by August 2014 in order to appear on the November 2014 general election ballot. A notice of proposed changes should be mailed to city residents in September,” explained Mucci.