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Compromise was the best solution for Salineville

March 29, 2009
Morning Journal News

As with most compromises, a recent one between Salineville Village Council and Mayor David Berta to appoint Mary Morgan as clerk left some disappointed, but it was the best move all the way around.

With the state auditor asking whether the mayor acted in "bad faith" by hurriedly appointing Morgan to the clerk's elected position and with Huntington Bank freezing the village's accounts, something had to be done and done quickly to prevent total chaos with village finances.

We, too, wonder why the mayor chose to ignore council's wishes and appoint Morgan when he knew full well an ordinance had been prepared to make the position an appointed one.

Yes, he did have the "legal" right to appoint someone without council's approval, but just because something is legal doesn't make it ethical or just plain right.

We want to believe his explanation, that he wanted someone in the position quickly so bills and payroll could be met.

However, it doesn't hold much water, considering he appointed Morgan the same day council planned to change the position to an appointed one, with applicants waiting in council chambers to be interviewed.

One or two more days would not have made a difference at that point.

For those accusing council of "not liking" Morgan or of just wanting to buck the mayor, we disagree.

This is a village that ended 2008 with a little more than $600 in the bank. It lost $30,000 in revenue last year and is $12,000 in the red already this year.

This alone screams the need for a well-qualified, astute fiscal officer who can quickly take over and do what needs to be done to keep the village from falling into fiscal emergency.

That alone is reason enough for council to question the quick appointment of a clerk with "some accounting experience," as Morgan related she has.

This is not to say Morgan cannot do the job and do it well, but the mayor and council had an obligation to find the very best qualified fiscal officer.

All the applications were not made available publicly, but council members said all were qualified, and at least one applicant had an impressive background in accounting with Huntington Bank.

These applicants should not have been discounted but should have been considered carefully before an appointment was made.

But, while council and the mayor are to be commended for reaching the compromise and approving Morgan to the position, their real work begins now.

By approving her as an appointee, rather than an elected official, council has the right and obligation to remove her from the position if she can't do the job.

We hope she can. But both the mayor and council must be vigilant in monitoring the new fiscal officer's work.

They must be honest and forthright in assessing her abilities, and if either Berta or council thinks she is not performing adequately, they must move quickly to find a replacement who can keep the village fiscally sound.

But such a decision must be based solely on Morgan's performance. She can't be kept on just because she is the mayor's hand-picked choice, and she can't be let go just because council members "don't like her."

The village's financial solvency is at stake, and there is no more important person in Salineville right now than the fiscal officer.



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