Dayton voters could change hiring rules, increase leaders’ pay, protect water

Dayton voters on May 4 will decide the fate of six charter amendments that could change pay for elected city leaders, police and fire hiring practices, rules ab

Dayton voters on May 4 will decide the fate of six charter amendments that could change pay for elected city leaders, police and fire hiring practices, rules about city employees’ political activities, and cement municipal ownership and control of the water system.

Proposed changes to city leaders’ salaries are controversial. The other proposed charter revisions have faced little to no opposition, like language allowing the city commission to hold virtual meetings during emergencies.

The amendments were developed by a charter review committee that met half a dozen times in the first two months of this year.

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Dayton City Hall on West Third Street. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Dayton City Hall on West Third Street. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Elected leaders’ pay

One charter proposal on the May 4 ballot would change how the salaries of city commissioners and the mayor are calculated, which is expected to lead to pay increases if approved.

Currently, commissioners’ pay is determined by a compensation board made up of people the commissioners appoint.

“We vote for our own salaries,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who is not seeking reelection. “It’s just not very appropriate.”

The proposed amendment calls for paying commissioners the greater of either their previous year salary or half of the current salary of the highest-paid Montgomery County commissioner.

The mayor’s pay would be the greater of his or her previous year salary or 75% of the highest-paid county commissioner.

Dayton’s mayor currently earns about $56,500 annually, while city commissioners make about $47,800, city staff said. The county commissioners will be paid about $107,690 this year.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Dayton City Commissioners Jeff Mims and Darryl Fairchild. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Dayton City Commissioners Jeff Mims and Darryl Fairchild. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Six of the seven Dayton commission have come out against this amendment, and one says he is “neutral.” Two of the three mayoral candidates say they oppose the compensation changes.

During a recent candidate forum, mayoral candidate and current Dayton City Commissioner Jeffrey Mims Jr. said he will vote yes on this charter proposal because it would attract and retain high quality and professional candidates.

Mayoral candidate Gary Leitzell said the proposal is a terrible idea and would greatly increase the mayor’s salary, even though the job is very similar to other commissioners.

“I’m not only going to vote no ― I’m going to vote hell no on this,” he said.

Mayoral candidate Rennes Bowers said raising elected leaders’ pay during this crisis is a mistake.

“My vote is no on this. As we’ve been knocking on doors we don’t think the citizens’ of Dayton support this,” he said.

Members of the charter review committee who recommended putting the question on the ballot said they believe increasing office-holders’ pay would make the positions more attractive and increase the pool of potential candidates.

Rule of One

Voters also will decide whether to amend Dayton’s charter to allow the city’s chief examiner to create a new selection process for police and fire recruits to replace the “rule of one.”

The rule of one requires the city to hire police and fire candidates in the order they scored on exams.

A photo posted to the Dayton Police Department's Twitter account, is captioned, "Getting ready to graduate! The 16 members of the 110th #DaytonPolice Recruit Class will be sworn in as officers this morning.  Congrats to all!"
A photo posted to the Dayton Police Department's Twitter account, is captioned, "Getting ready to graduate! The 16 members of the 110th #DaytonPolice Recruit Class will be sworn in as officers this morning. Congrats to all!"

A Dayton police reform committee recommended putting a charter change on the ballot to permit the city to switch to a new rule of three, five, 10 or a new banding process.

Under such rules, the city could select from a group of top-scoring candidates.

This could improve diversity in the safety forces because other criteria could be considered during the selection process, like background and life and work experiences, committee members and supporters said.

Some union leaders have strongly opposed changing the rule of one, claiming it helps minority candidates by eliminating potential bias, discrimination and cronyism from hiring decisions.

Public water system

Another proposed amendment would modify the city charter to explicitly declare that the city’s water system is a public utility and should not be leased, sold or transferred to private ownership or control.

City commissioners and officials say Dayton’s water system and abundant water supply are among its best assets and this amendment would ensure their long-term protection.

8-11-14  --  Aerial view of the Lime treatment tanks at the City of Dayton Miami Water Treatment Plant.  Dayton draws water form The Great Miami River Buried Aquifer, but treats the water to a stricter surface water standard.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
8-11-14 -- Aerial view of the Lime treatment tanks at the City of Dayton Miami Water Treatment Plant. Dayton draws water form The Great Miami River Buried Aquifer, but treats the water to a stricter surface water standard. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Mayor responsibilities

Another charter amendment spells out some of the responsibilities of the mayor, including leading the commission’s establishment of policy and convening community groups.

Under the proposal, the mayor also is supposed to advocate for the city on the state and federal level, maintain relationships with other elected officials, and cultivate grant and foundation opportunities.

Some critics, including multiple Dayton City Commission candidates, said they fear this language gives the mayor more power, potentially weakening Dayton’s city manager form of government.

Supporters say the language just clarifies the role of the mayor, without expanding the power of the office.

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Political activities

Another charter amendment would expand city of Dayton employees’ rights to engage in political activity.

Currently, city of Dayton’s classified employees generally are prohibited from taking part in off-duty political activities.

But city officials and charter review committee members say this prohibition is likely unconstitutional and probably would not withstand a legal challenge.

The new language would allow classified employees to participate in political campaigns of any level of government except city municipal elections.

Remote meetings

Proposed ballot language for section 39 of the city charter would allow the city to hold city commission meetings electronically if the city issues a declaration of emergency.

The city has hosted electronic meetings since early in the pandemic.

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