By Jeff Gallatin
Bay Village officials are going public in their efforts to provide information on proposed amendments to the city charter – including one that proponents say could help pave the way to participating in a regional fire district.
A letter from the Bay Village Charter Review Commission has been mailed out to city households outlining the different proposed amendments. In addition, a public meeting has been set for 6:30 p.m. Monday in the City Council chambers, where people can ask questions and get additional information on them. Commission members will be present at the meeting. To access the full letter, go to the city website at cityofbayvillage.com.
Earlier this year, commission members unanimously recommended proposed charter amendments, which, if approved by Bay Village voters in November, would effectively take the fire and police chiefs out of the civil service system, as well as one that would give the city the ability to merge or blend its law and finance departments with other governmental entities to work together.
Mayor Debbie Sutherland, who also is a member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, noted that with the increased emphasis on voting with mail-in and absentee ballots, voters need access to information on issues even earlier than before.
“People are making their decisions a lot earlier now,” she said. “They’ll get their ballots in the mail and want to be able to make their decision well before the election day.”
As she did during the commission’s meetings, Sutherland declined to take official stances on how people should vote. Several times when it came down to discussion and actual votes during the commission meetings, Sutherland would excuse herself from the meeting, noting her membership on the county board. She would answer questions in her capacity as mayor.
Sutherland and members of her administration have supported the amendments, which would help pave the way for a regional fire district. She said the amendment that would take the fire and police chiefs out of the civil service system is designed to help facilitate a regional fire district, not hurt the safety forces or civil service commissions. Administration officials also have said the other amendment pertaining to the law and finance departments will make it easier for cities to work together, including in a regional organization such as fire district.
Fire and police officials have
expressed concern about the proposed amendment pertaining to the
police and fire chiefs. They have said it opens the door for possible
abuse of the system when fire and police chiefs are appointed. They also have expressed concern about it weakening the civil service system.
In addition to the other proposed amendment, after tweaking the language, commission members approved a proposal that would make it less punitive for a city official to recuse themselves from voting or participating in decisions on any matter from which they, or any organization for which they worked, could financially benefit. With commission member Michael Caputo’s research helping prompt the proposed change, commission members said they felt the current charter language is too punitive, saying they felt it requires officials to resign even if they did the right thing and recused themselves from voting or participating in the discussion.
After much discussion, the panel nixed moving forward and placing on the ballot any proposal to eliminate or alter the city primary system, which was approved by voters fewer than five years ago. A majority of commission members said it was too soon to revisit the issue, although they praised former Municipal Planning Commission Chairman and current school board Vice President Michael Caputo for looking into
possible alternatives to the primary system. Caputo has cited the need
to contain costs in the city, noting a primary can cost the city close to $30,000.