Panel refining charter language

STEUBENVILLE – The Charter Review Commission still is considering term limits for council members and the mayor.

According to a tentative document reviewed Thursday by the commission members, the term limits language will limit council members and the mayor to two consecutive terms. After the council member or mayor leave office after two consecutive terms they will not be able to fill a council vacancy or the mayoral position for four years.

If the charter changes are approved by city voters, the term limits will start with the council members’ next election.

The commission now is reviewing the document for a second time and is planning to hold an evening session after the second review of the 30-year-old city charter is completed.

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.

Commission Chairman John J. Mascio said several proposed changes reflect suggestions made by the public.

After several minutes of spirited discussion, the commission declined to include language in the charter requiring City Council to allow the public to make comments during council Sunshine meetings.

“I am opposed to putting it in the charter. I think we should let the council decide that issue. They voted last week to allow the public to speak at the conclusion of sunshine meetings,” said commission member Aldo Isadore.

The proposed charter language changes also include a requirement that ordinances must be read on three different meetings, “unless the requirement is suspended by a vote of not less than five members of council.”

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 commission also discussed salaries for council members and the mayor in executive session. Each council member currently receives $3,900 a year while the mayor is paid $4,900 annually.

During a townhall meeting last month, Mascio indicated the Charter Review Commission is considering raising the council salaries but eliminating the health care insurance benefits.

The commission members are set to meet Thursday to discuss the powers and duties of the city manager and how a temporary city manager vacancy will be filled.

Also set for discussion Thursday are changes to how future police and fire chiefs will be appointed.

The commission is considering charter language that will require the appointment of a Charter Review Commission no more often than every 10 years or more often if deemed necessary by the City Council and mayor.

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

Mayor Domenick 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 and finalize any proposed changes to the City Council by July. 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 in order to appear on the November general election ballot. A notice of proposed changes should be mailed to city residents in September,” explained Mucci.

Commission member Jim Mavromatis again called for a townhall meeting when the charter language is ready for review and approval by city voters.