By Kevin Kelley
A nine-member charter review commission suggested 15 amendments to the governing charter of Cuyahoga County. Only four made it past Cuyahoga County Council to reach the Nov. 5 ballot for scrutiny by voters.
District 1 county Councilman Dave Greenspan, who voted for the four and is formally endorsing their passage, held a town hall meeting on the amendments and other countywide issues Oct. 17 at the Westshore Campus of Cuyahoga Community College in Westlake.
The first proposed amendment, on the ballot as Issue 2, would lengthen the time period council has to confirm an appointment by the county executive from 30 days to 60 days. The proposal would limit interim appointments by the county executive to serving no more than 120 days without council’s confirmation.
Greenspan said that, given council’s meeting schedule, there are times when the legislative body needs more time to consider an appointment. Current County Executive Ed FitzGerald has not been abusing the option of making interim appointments, Greenspan said. However, with FitzGerald running for governor and a new county executive anticipated in 2015, the issue of interim appointments will likely arise given a change in administration, Greenspan said.
The goal of the amendment is to clamp down on interim appointments so that the executive cannot use such an appointment to bypass council’s confirmation authority, Greenspan said.
Issue 3 would change the name of the Human Resource Commission to the Personnel Review Commission to avoid confusion with the Department of Human Resources, and have council appoint commission members.
Greenspan explained that county employees appealing a disciplinary action might feel uncomfortable going before a board appointed by the executive who appointed his or her boss.
The amendment would also add to the charter the position of director of human resources, who would be appointed by the executive and confirmed by council.
Issue 4 would clarify that certain actions of council, such as its operational rules and calendar, do not have to be approved by the county executive. This proposed amendment simply enforces the principle of separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government, Greenspan said.
Issue 5 would essentially rewrite the section of the charter governing the county’s board of revision, which hears appeals on real estate valuations. Currently, there are seven boards, Greenspan explained. These were set up to deal with a backlog of appeals.
Under the proposed amendment, a single board of revision would be established and granted statutory powers. The main board of revision would consist of the county executive, the county fiscal officer and a council member of a party other than the executive. This board would have the authority to establish hearing panels as needed to hear tax valuation appeals.
The amendment would establish merit qualifications for appointment to the hearing boards and eliminates all requirements that political parties be equally represented on the boards.
More information on the proposed county charter amendments, including links to the full texts, can be found online at http://council.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/2013-Charter-Proposals.aspx.