The Statesboro City Council will vote today to create a public safety director position about a month after Wendell Turner was appointed to the post, possibly in violation of the city charter.
At the 6 p.m. meeting, the council is expected to adopt the fiscal year 2011 budget and balance the 2010 budget. Included with the budget is a revised city organizational chart, which includes the job descriptions for the new positions of public safety director, fire commander, police commander, police lieutenant in charge of training, and chief financial officer.
On May 20, City Manager Shane Haynes announced the restructuring of the police and fire departments, eliminating the chief positions in both. Haynes said the council does not have to approve the city manager’s restructuring in a public meeting before the position is created or filled.
“They don’t have to do that. They can defer that to the city manager to actually create that position, which they did during our individual meetings with them,” Haynes said. “It’s a matter of record that they go through the motions to approve those positions after they are created.”
City Attorney Sam Brannen, however, said he could not recollect a time where the city hired someone for a position then created that position in a council meeting after the fact.
“If you don’t do it in advance, you nullify what is in the code,” Brannen said. “What you’ve got is a charter and a code of ordinances and they’re supposed to be followed. They’re not just to occupy printed space…If there is something that is offensive or doesn’t work or that everyone disagrees with, it can be changed. But if it’s not changed, then it stands.”
Section 3-6 (a) of the city charter states, “The city council shall prescribe the functions or duties and establish, abolish, or alter all nonelective offices, positions of employment, departments, and agencies of the city as necessary for the proper administration of the affairs and government of this city.”
In addition, section 3-G-1 of the City of Statesboro Employee Manual, which discusses reclassification of current city positions, states, “When the City Manager finds that a substantial change has occurred in the scope of duties and responsibilities of an existing position, or that the position is underpaid or overpaid for the relevant labor market, he shall recommend to the Mayor and City Council that the existing position description be revised…”
Haynes said the decision to create the public safety director, as well as the other positions in the fire and police department, was made during the various budget retreats and work sessions held by the council this past spring.
“In the different discussion sessions that we had, council instructed me to create the position, fill the position and then it would be ratified in the coming fiscal year budget,” Haynes said. “It will be adopted as part of the organizational chart when the fiscal year budget is adopted.”
City Councilman Will Britt said he was unsure if the position needed to be approved by council before it could be filled by the city manager, but the entire process was started at the public April budget meeting when council members charged Haynes with combining the city’s police and fire departments.
“It was my understanding that the position was put into the budget and approved that way,” Britt said. “All I know is that as of July 1, (the public safety director) is an officially budgeted position.”
Staff attorney speaks
Staff attorney Michael Graves said the city manager has the ultimate discretion regarding personnel.
“Ultimately the city manager makes personnel decisions. That was the difference in the governmental structure when (the city) went to the city manager format,” Graves said.
According to Graves, the city manager can create positions, write position descriptions and create, eliminate or reclassify department heads without the approval of council.
“Absolutely. That’s his duty. He’s the chief operating officer.” Graves said. “I think he has to have that flexibility. It’s the only way it can run. Otherwise he’s a city administrator that’s what we’d be left with.”
Haynes said he would prefer to run new positions and descriptions through council, but the looming July 1 budget deadline forced him and the council to speed up the process.
“In a best case scenario, we would do it the way we did it with (city staff attorney) Michaels but this was not a traditional process. Given more time, yes, we would have done it the other way – had council approve the position and pass the job description … but we were in a different scenario,” Haynes said. “All things being equal, that would be the way we would like to do it.”
On Feb. 16, council approved the creation of the Staff Attorney, a position to which Graves was appointed approximately one month later.
“The timing when we were going to meet with the other people (affected by the restructuring) and the fact that we were pushing up against the budget adoption, we just didn’t have time to do all that and (the council) didn’t want to call a special meeting to do that,” Haynes said.
Graves said the confusion about the responsibilities of the city council and the city manager are a result of the city charter and ordinances not being updated as changes were made.
“There is no doubt that the city charter has to be cleaned up,” Graves said.
The lack of clarity of the charter and ordinances also led to divisiveness on the council and exposed the city to potential litigation after the termination of former city clerk Judy McCorkle. It even spawned a lawsuit from Statesboro citizen Anthony Mann, who sought to clarify the charter’s language and prevent McCorkle from being re-appointed by the council over the city manager’s decision.
Fate of SCVB
Also on this evening’s agenda, the council will consider the approval of one-year contracts with the Statesboro Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority and the Statesboro Arts Council, which operates the Averitt Center for the Arts. These three organizations receive the revenues from the city’s hotel/motel tax, a five percent tax on lodging that generated approximately $445,000 this fiscal year.
According to the contracts, the SCVB will receive 40 percent of the tax, the SAC will receive 35 percent and the DSDA will receive 25 percent for FY 2011. For the current FY 2010, the SCVB receives 69 percent of those revenues, while SAC receives 23 percent and the DSDA receives eight percent.
Political pressure may have saved the SCVB because, though previously considered, the city will not create its own department for the promotion of tourism, yet.
“I hope the percentages that are currently being presented will deliver a better product overall,” Britt said. “We are redistributing that tax so more people benefit from it.”
Councilman John Riggs said, “We certainly wouldn’t have time to do anything to replace them. I didn’t want to replace them in the first place … but we’re just trying to be more efficient. We had so much other budget stuff on our plate that we didn’t have time to go into anything else yet.”
Riggs said the creation of a city tourism department isn’t off the table and that he’s seeking citizen input about the direction to go with tourism and the SCVB.
The city will also appoint a city representative to the SCVB for a two-year term to begin on July 1, but there was no indication who the candidate might be.
Council will also hear motions to approve two first readings for alcohol licenses, three second readings for alcohol licenses and a special event permit for the U Lounge. According to the application, Elliot Boney of Fatboy Entertainment seeks to serves beer, wine and alcohol during a “Independence Day Celebration” to be held at the U Longue, at 1830 Chandler Road, from 9 p.m. until midnight.
The city will consider a motion to establish a Water Conservation Incentive Program. In the program — which would be available only to owner-occupied single-family dwellings on a first-come, first-served basis — the city would furnish two water-wise shower heads and/or a $50 rebate for the purchase and installation of a duel flush low flow commode. If approved, the city would bid out the purchase of the shower heads and would have a supply on hand and the $50 credit would be applied to the customer’s water/sewer bill once they submit proof of purchase and installation.
With initial funding set at $50,000 starting in FY 2011, the city projects that 500-700 customers per year could be impacted.
Also on the packed agenda, the city will enter into an initial six-month commercial lease agreement with the DSDA for 58 East Main Street, Suite A, which is part of the building recently acquired from the DSDA from former owner Noel Burnsed. The city will pay the DSDA rent of $1,500 per month for use of the facility, which will house the city’s new, expanded IT department.
The entire city council agenda packet can be found at http://www.statesboroga.net/media/cc_2010/20100615_cc_packet.pdf.