Paden City Considers Making Recorder Appointed, Not Elected
Controversy and confusion has plagued the Paden City Council since the resignation of Recorder Larry Shepherd. This unexpected upheaval in the Municipal Building has given the governing body cause to consider an amendment to their City Charter regarding this vital position.
Though outdated in many areas, the charter clearly defines the recorder’s position as an elected office. However, City Attorney Carolyn Flannery was quick to point out that most municipalities have changed the position to an appointed one in recent years to insure continuity.
“The mayor asked me to check out what it would entail to amend the charter provision to allow the office of the recorder to be an appointed position rather than an elected position,” Flannery explained.
Councilwoman Eileen Smittle interrupted, “I ask that we not change this.”
Mayor Bill Fox said, “That’s fine. That’s one opinion.”
Fox was in favor of the amendment, citing a need for change. “We didn’t just arbitrarily pull this out of the air and say we think we need to make a change. We have been in a situation the last few months that we’ve never been in before. We didn’t have anyone in the recorder’s office. If Ginger (Wilcox) had not come back we would have been in a bad position. She knew all of the past history.”
With no criteria other than residency and age requirements, Fox likened the election to a popularity contest. “It doesn’t say you have to have computer or administration skills or experience in accounting. So you never know when you go out for an election if it’s just going to be a popularity contest.”
“That won’t run the city. You have to have the right people in that office,” Fox stated. “I would hate to be the mayor after someone was elected who did not know how this city operates,” Fox said.
Resident Susan Wade opposes the amendment saying, “They are elected on merit.” She noted the experience Wilcox received prior to being elected to the office of recorder. “The citizens aren’t going to vote for somebody they don’t know. It should stay an elected position, as it has been in the past.”
Fox said, “We have been fortunate in the past!”
Wade continued, “If they are appointed by the mayor. . .”
Fox interrupted, “No, they will be hired by the city. The mayor will not determine who will be recorder. The city council will.”
“So if the council members change every two years and they believe someone else would do a better job . . . how many times is this going to happen?” Wade asked.
Fox described the appointment as an interview, stating that the resumes of the applicants would be reviewed and the recorder would be hired based on their qualifications. “Then the person that is in that position does not have to worry two years down the road about whether or not they are going to be back in that position. That’s job security. Right now they don’t have that,” he said. “It’s like the position we have now. No one is going to take that job for four or five months and give up another job they have somewhere else not knowing what’s going to happen when the election is over.”
Flannery added, “This council and this city has been very fortunate to have very qualified people as recorder (in the past).”
“We have been very fortunate up until the point we got in this situation we got into in the past few months. I’m telling you, it would drive you nuts sitting around here trying to figure it out. If Ginger had not agreed to come back in here, I don’t know where we would be,” Mayor Fox remarked. “I don’t have those skills and no one around this table has those skills.”
A resident commented, “If you hadn’t given her such a rough time, she would have been here all along.”
Rodney McWilliams, another Paden City resident, said, “I’m assuming there would still be qualifications as to residency requirements because in order to run for the office you have to live in Paden City.”
The mayor said this would be up to the council to decide.
McWilliams noted that a review policy for employees, including an appointed recorder, should be in place to make sure he or she is performing the duties in a satisfactory manner. Still, he expressed reservations with regard to the proposed amendment. “Elections are a check and balance,” he commented, implying that if an elected official was not doing the job, he or she could be voted out. “A hired employee is there, right or wrong, and the citizens have no say in who that person is.”
McWilliams asked, “Who has oversight of the recorder?”
Flannery explained that as an employee of the city, the council would have more power over an appointed recorder, rather than an elected official, if things went wrong. “It’s difficult if someone has engaged in some kind of misconduct to remove them from office. There is a process that you have to go through. Therefore, it’s actually more difficult to remove an elected official.”
Smittle cited that in the past, the recorder and the clerk cross-trained so both could perform the other’s tasks if needed. “Unfortunately it didn’t work that way this time,” she noted.
Councilman Tom Trader added to the discussion. “After what happened this time, I think the recorder’s office needs to be checked on more than what they were. When you elect someone, they are in there for two years. It takes two years to learn the job.”
Regarding the appointment of a recorder, Trader said, “It’s like any other job. If you get hired and you don’t do your job, you get fired. You don’t keep somebody just because you like them. If they are not doing their job, they are not doing their job.”
“Most municipalities do not have elected recorders. If they do, they are more like a mayor. They get paid a flat monthly rate, and someone works under them so the consistency in there from one council to the next,” Flannery said. “So there is someone who knows the ins and outs, and that person stays there.”
“It really is a position that requires training, experience, and expertise. Out of all positions in the city, even the mayor, this is a job held by a person who holds the city together. If you get the wrong person in there, you are going to have problems like you’ve had recently,” she continued.
No action was taken in regard to the recorder’s position. Mayor Fox asked the council to think about the proposed amendment and how important it is. “I will be the first guy to admit that I didn’t realize how important the recorder was until we got into the position we have been in the past few months. It’s an important job.”
The current term ends this year. The Paden City Council must move on the amendment soon if a change is to be made.
In the same vein, the council discussed the date of the City Election on Monday evening.
At a previous meeting, school officials expressed concern with the disruption caused by the municipal election. At that time, those officials asked the Paden City Council to consider changing the polling places to exclude the school or change the date of the election.
Flannery explained the under normal circumstances, the times for municipal elections is outlined in the charter. This is not the case in Paden City. Quoting section 13 of the charter provision dealing with elections, Flannery said, “Municipal elections shall be held in accordance with state laws and in accordance with article 103 of the Administrative Code.”
“Your ordinance dictates the date, time, and place of your municipal elections,” she explained in layman’s terms. “Based on that, I’m not certain you need to do a charter amendment in regards to changing the election date or the polling place if that is what you want to do.”
Flannery further explained this could be changed by revising the ordinance.
“I would caution you to get with the State Election Board to make sure we do not run into any problems there,” she said.
Flannery noted that New Martinsville changed their municipal election date to coincide with the county because it was more financially feasible.
“So you have two options,” she concluded. “You can change your polling place so it’s not disruptive to the school or you can change the date to coincide with the county election, which is a state holiday. With everyone off, this would not affect the schools.”
Flannery has not drafted a revision to the ordinance yet, as guidance is needs from the council.
As it stands, the election will be held on June 2. At that time, a recorder and three members of council (one from each ward) will be elected to a two year term.
Any person desiring to run for any of the offices must file their intention by filling out the necessary eligibility forms and paying the filing fee of $10 at the recorder’s office on or before April 1.
When it to approving the bills for the city of Paden City, Smittle made a motion to pay all mandatory bills (i.e. utilities) to avoid late fees and other penalties.
Mayor Fox outlined a budget revision prepared for the council by Wilcox. The revision would cover line items that may face a deficit.
After a roll call vote, the council voted unanimously to approve the budget revision, which will be submitted to the state as a matter of record.
In other business, the council voted to approve the purchase of a second cinder spreader per a request from Clifford Duke. The piece of equipment will cost $4,600 and will be paid for out of the city’s general fund.
Duke said the purchase will expedite the spreading of cinders throughout Paden City.
Mayor Fox informed the council of a plan to install a PA system in the council chambers as a cost of $3,892.75. This item would be paid for with money from coal severance.
Councilman Richard Wright made a motion to table the matter, stating the money could be better spent in the city. Many of the residents gathered agreed that a sound system was not needed in such a small room.
No action was taken. The PA system will be discussed again at the next meeting.
Fox read a resolution authorizing him to request payment for invoices for the installation of a heating and cooling system in the city building. The total for the project was $23,885 and will be paid with grant funds procured by Tim Meeks of the Mid Ohio Valley Regional Council.
The council approved the resolution.
The council entertained the first reading of an ordinance to amend an ordinance establishing the salary and wages for part-time police officers in Paden City. Because of the low wage ($9.88 per hour), the city has not been able to secure part-time officers. The ordinance will increase the wage to $11 per hour.
The measure was approved unanimously.
The first reading of an ordinance establishing salary and wages for the mayor and council members was also entertained. The ordinance will increase the salary of the mayor to $400 per month and the salaries of council members to $100 per month.
Fox noted that any increase would not affect the salaries of current council members, unless his or her term expires and he or she is re-elected. “No one sitting around this table will receive a raise. You cannot vote yourself a raise,” he remarked.
The mayor stated that he went back through the records and found that a raise has not been given in many, many years. Currently the mayor is paid $200 per month and council members receive $50 per month.
Smittle made a motion to table the matter until the next meeting. No action was taken.
Under citizens’ grievances and complaints, Jon Baker, owner of Days Gone By in Paden City, asked Mayor Fox about the status of the noise ordinance. Fox informed Baker that a new ordinance had been drafted, however, to date it has not been submitted for the approval of the council.
“Council will receive a copy of the draft once it has been typed,” Fox stated. “The council will then review the draft and make any necessary changes. If they don’t like it, then they can toss it out and write a new one. But we will have an ordinance soon.”
The Paden City Council meets at 7 p.m. on the first Monday of the month. The next regular meeting will be held on March 7.