Fairfield to hold special meetings in city manager search process

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Credit: Michael D. Pitman

Fairfield City Council did not discuss the process to hire a new city manager as anticipated earlier this week because state law doesn’t allow it.

Instead, Mayor Steve Miller said City Council will meet Tuesday, and then have special meetings on the Mondays between council meetings. Council meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Tuesday’s meeting, which will be at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers, will discuss the process of hiring a new city manager.

“I think probably the best way to do it,” said Miller. “We’ve got to do this and do it right. We do ourselves a disservice if we squeeze it in after one of these meetings. Everyone’s tired after these meetings.”

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Miller said these meetings will take place “until we get through this,” but said the special meetings could be canceled if there is no pertinent business to discuss.

“It’s going to take a lot of time. But if we do it, and do it right, I guarantee you we’ll hire an excellent city manager and we’ll move on down the road in the right direction,” the mayor said.

Former Fairfield city manager Mark Wendling unexpectedly resigned on Dec. 11, two days after being given a separation agreement. According to that agreement, he had until Dec. 31 to sign it. He signed the agreement on Dec. 11.

The city nor Wendling is permitted per the separation agreement to talk about the sudden resignation, but Wendling said last month is departure has “been brewing for a while.”

State law permits a governmental body to discuss personnel matters in an executive session meeting. But non-permitted matters may not be discussed, even if “intertwined” with permitted matters, according to the Ohio Government Resource Manual, which is produced by the state’s attorney general and auditor offices.

Establishing the process of hiring a city manager may not be discussed, said city attorney Steve Wolterman, but anything including appointment, interviews and hiring discussions are permitted in executive session.

Violation of any Ohio’s Open Meeting Act could result in a fine if a complaint is filed in Common Pleas Court, according to the law.

Fairfield Fire Chief Don Bennett will serve as acting city manager until a replacement is found, and that process could take four to six months, according to city officials.

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The city agreed to pay Wendling a six-month lump sum payment of his salary ($163,991 annually), and an additional $6,000.

Miller is suggesting City Council push for a national search for Fairfield’s next city manager.

Once a city manager is hired, that person will hire a new assistant city manager. Dan Wendt will resign effective Jan. 20 as the city’s assistant city manager to take the Vandalia city manager job. He starts Feb. 1.

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