Hamilton council places 14 amendments before voters in November: What they’ll decide

City Council on Wednesday voted to let Hamilton voters decide on 14 amendments to the city’s charter, a 34-page document that spells out how city government should operate.

In doing so, officials passed along all 14 suggestions that were offered by the volunteer citizen panel, the latest one that was created in an every-five-year process to examine things that could be tweaked in the city’s governing document.

Hamilton’s charter took effect Jan. 1, 1928.

Council made only one tweak to the 14 amendments. In one proposed change that would clarify that unclassified employees lack appeal rights when they are laid off, because those employees work for the city “at will,” Mayor Pat Moeller introduced a change that would let employees keep their ability to receive a letter explaining why they were laid off, suspended or terminated.

The proposed amendments are:

In a proposal opposed by the city’s firefighters’ union, a change that would give the fire chief more discretion in determining staffing than was allowed by voters in the early 1950s. The charter now allows the chief to divide the fire force into two platoons, where firefighters work 24 hours and are off at least 24 hours; or three platoons, where they work 24 hours and are off at least 48 straight hours. The proposed change would eliminate those hourly restrictions.

Giving the city manager power to decide how many employees are in each department. The commission found that, “this duty seemed more like an administrative duty of the city manager rather than a power of council.” The panel found that council already can establish departments by legislation, but administrators should tell council how many employees are needed. Also, council has approval over the annual budget.

Making it clear that council members, who are paid $300 a year, are employees of the city, so they can receive health insurance, which they already have been getting. Council’s pay rate would not change.

Making it explicitly clear what constitutes a conflict of interest for members of city council or city employees, and that those elected officials or staffers should abstain from votes when they affect financial interests of their immediate family. Immediate family “means spouse, child or stepchild, grandchild, parent, step-parent, grandparent, brother, sister, parents or step-parents of spouse and grandparents of spouse.” Also, council would be able to remove members of the council for the remainder of their terms if they find them to have engaged in disorderly conduct, including violation of state ethics laws. One form of “disorderly conduct” would be giving orders to a city staffer other than the city manager either publicly or privately. Positive votes by at least five on the seven-member council would be needed to remove a member of council from office.

A change forbidding the city to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It was proposed by the Hamilton Pride organization.

A rule allowing city-approved resolutions to take effect immediately, rather than in 30 days. The same proposed amendment would allow notifications of public meetings to be announced on the city’s website or other websites, rather than in a newspaper of general circulation.

A change that would let city administrators make changes to city contracts, such as when the dollar amounts increase, rather than requiring votes by council, as long as the changes were within the budgeted amounts.

A change to clarify that when unclassified employees do not have appeal rights when they are laid off, because those employees work for the city “at will.” Employees would keep their ability to receive a letter explaining why they were laid off, suspended or terminated.

Allowing “temporary city employees” to work up to 1,560 hours in a year, rather than the current limit of 1,040. That would allow about nine months of uninterrupted employment.

A change that would place the duties of “city auditor” under the position of Hamilton’s finance director. State law requires certain documents be signed by a city auditor or village clerk, but Hamilton has neither. This would give the finance director clear authority to sign such documents.

Elimination of the name of the “Civil Service and Personnel” department and changing it to Human Resources, because that change “fulfills the promise that the city of Hamilton will continue to modernize and be in the forefront of change.”

Granting power to the city manager, rather than the all-volunteer civil service commission, to hire and fire the director of civil service.

Making the city’s Economic Development Department, which has been growing in importance in recent years, an official entity under the city’s charter.

A change better specifying procedures for the charter review commission itself, and giving city council the ability to propose charter changes of its own — without a charter review commission meeting — if the need is immediate to the city and if six of the seven members of council vote on it after it has been considered at two council meetings.

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