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New Franklin charter changes headed to ballot

7/24/2014 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

NEW FRANKLIN — Voters in New Franklin will have two more issues to consider in the Nov. 4 General Election.

New Franklin City Council approved the placement of two proposed amendments to the city’s charter on the ballot, as required by the city’s charter, after some discussion during a public hearing July 16.

The amendments, both related to the finance director’s position, were suggested by the Charter Review Commission. The commission, consisting of seven members appointed by Mayor Al Bollas and approved by Council in January, included: John Perduyne, chairman of the original Charter Commission, whose members were elected in 2005; Robin Aikey, vice chair of the original commission; retired Fire Chief Perry Surgeon, a member of the original commission; Eric Roberts, a member of the first Charter Review Commission in 2008; Bill Hunter, a member of the original commission; Carol Adamson, a member of the original commission; and Joe Parsons, a former at-large Council member, who served as chairman.

The amendments involve Section 6.03 (A) and (B). Section 6.03 (A) proposes to modify the qualifications for the finance director position and Section (B) “cleans up the language” regarding the director’s duties, according to city officials.

In Section (A), the proposed changes would require the finance director to: have knowledge of accounting, taxation, budgets and financial control as demonstrated by experience, education or both; and not hold any other public office … other than a delegate role in a political party, a notary public or as an officer in the military reserve or National Guard, serve in an office position or other capacity to further intergovernmental cooperation, and may hold any office permitted by the charter, ordinance or resolution and the laws of Ohio.

This change removes the requirement for a finance director to have an undergraduate college degree in accounting or related field and a minimum five years of experience that includes two years each in municipal or governmental accounting and a management or supervisory position.

While there was little discussion about Section (B), Section (A) drew a variety of opinions from Council, the commission and the public.

“We have a budget of $8 million to $10 million and it’s growing,” said Councilman Gust Kalapodis (Ward 4). “It’s not just pennies. We want someone with some cognitive powers with numbers. We should have someone with a degree as a starting point.”

Resident Francis Ford Smith suggested the finance director should “at least be working towards a degree.”

New Franklin resident Jim Cotts asked city officials not to “dumb it [the qualifications] down.”

“I do not agree with this [change],” he said. “It does not help the community. Ten years from now, as our money grows, we need someone who can take care of the money. We don’t want to take a chance.”

Councilman Paul Adamson (Ward 1) disagreed.

“I differ on this largely in deference to the Charter Review Commission,” he said. “[Qualifications] must have been discussed. I trust the mayor and Council to ferret out unqualified individuals, and I am in favor of broader discretion [in selecting a candidate for the job].”

Councilman David Stock (Ward 3) said changing the requirements for the position will “let us get a bigger pool of people [for the job],” and Councilman Harry Gehm (at large) suggested higher qualifications mean the city will have to pay more for the position.

City officials have said the qualifications for the finance director as they currently stand have made it difficult to fill the position.

“We got lots of CPA [certified public accountant] applicants, but no one who knew fund accounting, which is what is needed for the job,” said Mayor Al Bollas. “You can have an associate degree to do that.”

At that time, the position also was part time. Council agreed to make the finance director position full-time in April on a trial basis until the end of this year, with a salary of $48,000 and full benefits for the position.

City officials and some Commission members also argued that someone with a degree is not necessarily going to be the best candidate for the job, and they cited a past finance director with multiple degrees who was working part time and left the city’s finances in disarray.

Parsons told Council the commission “had a great deal of conversation on this, more so than anything else.” He added the “language does not preclude applicants with a degree in accounting or a CPA.”

Aikey, who said she voted against the proposed changes to the qualifications, encouraged voters to review the minutes of the Charter Review Commission regarding discussion on this item. The minutes are available by contacting city officials.

In other business, Council approved three pieces of legislation, including:

  • the appointment of Madison Wolbert as temporary Council clerk, at the rate of $150 per meeting, which Bollas said includes typing and distributing legislation;
  • a payment of $10,600 to Pugh Well Drilling and Pump Co. for the already completed installation of a new well for the Administration Building and fire station on Manchester Road; and
  • the transfer of $100,000 from the General Fund to the Police Fund, and $50,000 from the General Fund to the Dispatch Fund.

Bollas also announced Rebuilding Together Greater Cuyahoga Valley has invited area residents to its second annual clambake Sept. 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Tudor House, 655 Latham Lane. Tickets cost $50 per person, with 250 tickets to be sold. Sponsorships also are available. For details, call 330-773-4100.

The next Council meeting will take place Aug. 6 starting at 6 p.m. with committee meetings and continuing immediately afterward with the regular meeting at City Hall, located at 5611 Manchester Road.

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