Residents will have another opportunity to tell Hilliard City Council their views on how the city best should be governed.

A public hearing is scheduled at 7 p.m. April 23 at the Hilliard Municipal Building, 3800 Municipal Way, in conjunction with the second reading of an ordinance for a proposed charter amendment to change the city's form of government from a "strong-mayor" model to a city manager. The amendment request would go on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The ordinance was introduced and received a first reading April 9 and would receive a third and final reading May 14 if it advances.

The authority of a city manager, the relationship between a city manager and City Council and the vestiges of a mayor became clearer April 9 as law director Tracy Bradford and council members dissected a document that spelled out the look of a city-manager charter.

Several residents also told them they think City Council is moving too quickly.

"These actions are disturbing," said resident Cynthia Vermillion, who criticized members for not allowing the 11-member charter-review commission to complete its charge of reviewing the charter and submitting any recommendations for amendments to City Council this summer.

The commission, Vermillion said, was convened "to be a voice on behalf" of citizens. She said she could not quantify what is motivating council members to act so quickly, but "it is not responsible government at work."

Resident David Frey said he is not partial to either form of government and asked, "What's the rush?"

"Wait for the commission to finish, educate the public and let us decide," Frey said.

Kurt Gearhiser, chairman of the charter-review commission, told City Council on April 2 it was "ridiculous" to act so quickly.

Mayor Don Schonhardt, who was present April 9 but left council chambers before discussion about the city manager began, previously said he opposed such a change because it would erode the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of local government.

Councilman Les Carrier, a proponent of the charter amendment, said action is necessary now to allow time for an initiative petition, in the event of the ordinance's failure, and still meet the Aug. 8 filing deadline at the Franklin County Board of Elections.

Carrier said he wants the question before voters in November before the filing deadline in February 2019 for mayor and City Council elections.

Other possible charter-amendment proposals, such as those for eliminating partisan elections, establishing a ward system, instituting term limits or anything related to the commission's forthcoming recommendations, could wait for future ballots, he said.

City-manager details

In discussing the city-manager model for a potential amendment, council members agreed a proposed charter amendment should require a two-thirds super-majority – five of seven members – to hire or fire a city manager and that a city manager should have a contract rather than serving at will. In a city-manager form of government, the manager is appointed and serves as the pleasure of City Council, in a similar manner to a school district's superintendent.

Council members also agreed to invest the city manager with the authority to hire and dismiss three specific department directors – those for the finance, law and service departments – without the formal consent of council, though council members said any quality city manager would not act without apprising them of his or her intent.

Council members also resolved a city manager should have a residency requirement but it should not be mandated in the charter.

Finally, if Hilliard were to have a city manager, council members would choose a mayor and a vice mayor from among themselves instead of a president or vice president. The officers would serve serve two-year terms.

How the city would transition to a city manager, if necessary, was not finalized.

Schonhardt's term expires Dec. 31, 2019, and council members are determining how soon they would have to begin vetting candidates and more critically, when a city manager would begin employment, if an amendment were made.

"There needs to be some sort of transition period," Councilman Nathan Painter said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

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