Warrenton alderman wants board to reclaim hiring powers

Posted 10/8/21

A first-year Warrenton aldermen is pushing to reclaim the city board’s power to hire and fire high-level staff members, a power aldermen previously delegated to the office of the city …

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Warrenton alderman wants board to reclaim hiring powers

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A first-year Warrenton aldermen is pushing to reclaim the city board’s power to hire and fire high-level staff members, a power aldermen previously delegated to the office of the city administrator.

At a September 21 aldermen meeting, Ward 2 representative Steven Cullom called on the board to once again take charge of appointing some of the city’s most important officers, including police chief and director of operations.

“It used to be that the board and the mayor would have the final vote (on hiring). ... I think we need to go back to that,” Cullom said. “I think it should be the elected officials who have the final say in who gets what position.”

Cullom is one of three Warrenton aldermen that took office this spring after an election that drastically altered the makeup of the board. One of Cullom’s stated priorities coming into office was to revisit recent decisions of his predecessors about how the city should be managed.

At issue here is the 2018 city ordinance that established the office of city administrator. In it, aldermen at the time granted the administrator authority to make nearly all hiring and firing decisions without a vote from the board.

Cullom said lower-level positions could remain under the purview of the administrator, but that Warrenton’s director of operations, chief of police, building commissioner, city clerk and finance officer should all come to the board for approval before taking office. The city administrator could make recommendations on who to hire for those positions, Cullom said.

None of the other five aldermen expressed opposition to returning more control of those hiring decisions to the board.

However, Ward 2 Alderman Scott Schulze clarified that even if aldermen go back to voting on high-level appointments, the city administrator should retain authority over the rest of the city staff. Previously, many staffing decisions, including hiring and disciplinary action, had to go through a committee of aldermen, which Schulze described as “micromanaging.”

Schulze and Ward 3 Alderman Bob Delaloye are the only current board members who were in office when the position of city administrator was created.

City Attorney Christopher Graville said it will be a simple matter for the board to change city ordinance to reflect Cullom’s request. A bill to that effect will be drafted for a vote and approval at a future meeting.

Graville commented that one of the reasons previous aldermen opted to give so much hiring power to the city administrator was so that important positions could be filled right away if they were vacant. Before there was a city administrator, aldermen had to meet and vote on every single hiring decision, sometimes causing a two-week delay in filling positions.

“That happened a lot with police officers. The city administrator eliminated that (delay), because now they do the hiring and firing of employees,” Graville commented.

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