SALEM — Mayor Jerry Wolford is challenging city council’s action to delete the money allocated for and the position of the deputy director of service and safety.
By a 4-3 vote, council stripped the position and the wages from a non-bargaining wage adjustment ordinance on Tuesday. Wolford appointed Greg Oesch to that newly-created position after council merged his former safety director position with the service director’s job. Tuesday’s ordinance, which repealed all prior ordinances “herewith” was introduced by Councilman Justin Palmer.
Wolford said after a Thursday meeting with Law Director Brooke Zellers and Service Director Steve Andres that the deputy director of service and safety, a sub-department in the service department, was first suggested by Zellers and, as part of the Ohio Revised Code, it was valid.
“It allows the service director to do exactly what he’s done, he has the authority,” Wolford said.
Councilman Earl A. Schory II led the move to delete the position, invoking Council Rule 15 for a separate vote on it.
“The reason,” Schory explained Tuesday, was the “lawyer in me has been offended by the division of power.” He called the administration’s action to create the deputy director of service and safety position “a slap in the face” to council and didn’t think there was a position.
“I don’t feel it was created,” he said, asking, “how can we fund a non-existing position?”
Schory said somebody is working in city hall in a job “I don’t think exists” while adding he had problems from a liability standpoint in having someone telling police what to do.
“The lawyer in me...it really bothers me...can any department go out and do something against the legislature?” he asked, adding council determines the number of jobs in the city.
“The biggest thing,” Schory added, “was who has the final say.”
Regarding the question of liability that Schory raised, Wolford said he asked Zellers for a written opinion regarding the validity of the position itself and also regarding council’s authority to strip a line item from a budget that was already passed.
“As far as the pay, it was in the budget,”Wolford said. “We’re going to look into the legality of whether council can delete a line item that was already appropriated.”
Wolford added, “They’re basically trying to redo the budget. Do they have the right to take it out of the non-bargaining budget?”
Wolford said he was hopeful Zeller’s opinion would be ready by the next council meeting and until then said Oesch “has the full authority to act as the deputy director of services and safety.”
Contacted last night, Schory said, “As the former law director it’s my opinion that any position, any employee for the city of Salem, the position has to be created by council.
“So, the deputy safety service director was not. The ordinance (wage adjustment) was invalid because the position wasn’t created.”
Schory said commissions or boards created by council are not self-executory and council sets the number of employees.
“The Ohio Revised Code has to be read in multiple sections,” Schory said, explaining. “so what if the service director creates 10 positions? Will council fund them?”
He said it is not just an appropriation, it takes the legislative body.
Larry Shields can be reached at email@example.com