On Monday, Aug. 22, the Charlotte City Council directed City Attorney Thomas Hitch to investigate steps needed to change the city’s charter to allow council to have greater control in personnel matters.
The discussion, which took place as part of a special presentation by councilman Anthony Russo, centers on the council’s ability to approve the termination of city employees. Currently, the Charlotte City Charter does not afford the council power to approve employee terminations.
Hitch said he was unclear if the city’s charter could be amended or if a revision would have to take place.
“My question is whether it would require a complete revision because it is such a significant change, rather than just a simple amendment,” Hitch said. “That’s a more difficult question.”
Currently, the charter states: Neither the Council nor any of its members or committees shall dictate the appointment of any person to city office or employment by the City Manager or in any way interfere with the City Manager or any other city officer to prevent him from exercising his judgment in the conduct of the duties of his office or the appointment or employment of officers and employees in the administrative service.
Councilman Chris Bahmer initially raised the issue of council approving employee terminations at the June 27 council meeting. Bahmer stated it would not be a bad idea if council has to approve any terminations of employees moving forward. He was addressing a specific personnel issue that involved a city employee who had been terminated and took his case to arbitration.
Russo brought the concept back to the council Aug. 22 and said, “It’s another way to do things. There’s a valid point to it.”
Bahmer said he certainly doesn’t feel the council should be involved in the initiation of a firing.
“That could be a problematic place to end up,” Bahmer said Monday.
Bahmer is more interested in council’s ability to confirm a termination before it becomes final. Citing Michigan’s Right to Work status, Bahmer said it is not unreasonable to think labor unions may not be as powerful or even in existence in the future.
“I think it is forward thinking to prepare for this possibility, and have an additional mechanism to protect worker’s rights,” Bahmer added he would favor a charter amendment going to a citizen vote.
Councilman Brad Johnston said he is not entirely opposed to the idea, but would like more information. Mayor Pro Tem Corey Sanders said he was also on the fence.
Councilmember Yvonne Ridge voiced her opposition to the concept, stating the City Council hires a City Manager to handle the administrative tasks of the city.
“I don’t really agree with it having to be a double-check where if they want to terminate someone, you bring it back to council to make sure he’s doing his job correctly,” Ridge said. “I would disagree with doing a charter change. We are all part-time people … when you get into personnel matters, that’s a daily function when you have employees. It’s not something that part-time city council members have the time to be able to manage.”
Ridge added that the council should take action if and when the city manager is not performing up to the standards of the council.
Hitch will bring his findings to council at its Sept. 12 meeting.