Voters support 11 of 14 Hamilton city charter amendments in unofficial results

Hamilton residents voted in favor of 11 of 14 amendments to the city’s charter — essentially the constitution that dictates how the government should operate — in unofficial results.

These results are expected to change as more ballots are counted through Nov. 18. We will continue to update these results as more ballots are counted.

Here are the proposed amendments, which were put forward by the city’s Charter Review Commission, a panel that’s created every five years to see what changes should be made:

ISSUE 1 (losing 60-40). 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.

ISSUE 2 (winning 58-42). 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.

ISSUE 3 (winning 79-21). 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.

ISSUE 4 (winning 74-26). 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.

ISSUE 5 (winning 52-48). 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.”

ISSUE 6 (winning 61-39). 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.

ISSUE 7 (winning 56-44). 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.

ISSUE 8 (winning 65-35). 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.”

ISSUE 9 (losing 56-44). Granting power to the city manager, rather than the all-volunteer civil service commission, to hire and fire the director of civil service.

ISSUE 10 (winning 67-33). 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.

ISSUE 11 (winning 69-31). Making the city’s Economic Development Department, which has been growing in importance in recent years, an official entity under the city’s charter.

ISSUE 12 (losing 68-32). 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.

ISSUE 13 (winning 72-28). A change forbidding the city to discriminate against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It was proposed by the Hamilton Pride organization.

ISSUE 14 (winning 63-37). 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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