Trotwood residents will vote this fall on a collection of changes to their city charter, affecting the city compensation board, procedures for removing the city manager and rules for publicizing and approving city ordinances, among other issues.
The ballot language breaks the proposal down into 12 different sections of changes, but voters will cast a single yes-or-no vote to approve all of the changes or reject all of them collectively.
A city charter review commission is seated every five years to review the charter and recommend changes. Trotwood clerk of council Kara Landis said this year’s seven-member commission met in February and March, and city council in July agreed to put the proposal on the November ballot for residents to decide.
Former Trotwood councilman Rap Hankins was chairman of the charter review commission and asked voters to approve the changes, calling them a “good governance” effort. In response to a records request, city officials said there has been no citizen correspondence or statements at council meetings opposing the changes.
Several of the proposed changes have to do with the compensation board that determines the salaries of the mayor and city council members. Currently, the mayor selects the five members, subject to council approval, and they must include representation from organized labor, the business community and “citizen participation” groups, according to the charter.
The proposed changes would have each city council member name one person to a seven-member compensation board, with no requirement that labor, business or any other group be represented.
“There were concerns in getting (enough) volunteers for the city to serve on boards and commissions,” Landis said. “By opening it to the community as a whole (rather than certain groups), it gives council more of a pool of people to consider.”
Other changes would specify that mid-term pay increases are not allowed, and would require that the compensation board receive the city budget and employee pay raise information before making a recommendation.
Currently, Trotwood’s mayor makes $12,000 per year plus up to $6,000 more based on events and appearances. Council members make $6,000 per year, and both offices have access to the same benefits package as city employees. Those figures were lower before a 2018 compensation board recommendation.
Firing key employees
If the measure is approved, it would take at least five votes from the seven city council members to remove either the city manager or the clerk of council. Currently, such a move requires only a simple majority of four votes.
Hankins said councils are often divided 4-3, so requiring a supermajority for removal is good governance.
“It takes the politics out of the role of the city manager and clerk of council,” he said. “Removing them is not something that should be done on a whim. It’s a serious political act.”
Another proposal would change the way the city notifies the public of new ordinances (laws). Currently, the city clerk has to publish a brief summary of any proposed ordinance in a local newspaper at least a week before a public hearing on the ordinance. They have to publish a similar summary later if the ordinance is adopted by council.
The new language would allow the city to skip the newspaper advertisement if they post the same summary on the city’s website and in three public places around the city for at least a week. Landis said the move would save the city money, and those “three public places” had not been decided.
“I believe that discussion will take place depending on the outcome of the balloting,” she said. “Making it visible is very important. We need to be sure to communicate well so people know where to find those details.”
** The proposal would expand Trotwood’s authority to enact emergency ordinances at the same meeting they are introduced, beyond just issues of “public peace, health or safety.” They still would not be able to levy taxes or borrow money via an emergency ordinance.
** The city’s annual appropriation ordinance would be effective immediately upon adoption by council, but would require five yes votes out of seven.