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The City Journals

City Council takes away Mayor’s veto power, votes to hire own staff member

Nov 07, 2018 02:19PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Residents filled the council chambers during a meeting on Sept. 19. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected]

South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood vetoed city council’s ordinance to have authority to hire a staff member in August. Citing the pending homeless resource center and a need for more public safety personnel, the mayor said there is not enough money to allocate a new staff member, despite what was planned in the budget. In September the council decided to change the city ordinance that allows the mayor to veto, permitting them to approve a city staff member. 

The council’s ordinance (No. 2018-11) states, “the council shall supervise, appoint, and direct its own staff and establish job descriptions, job functions, job classifications or reclassifications and compensation therefore, within the budgeted appropriations and consistent with state law.” 

Wood’s veto was initially upheld on Sept. 5 when the council’s motion to reconsider the ordinance for an additional staff member — which would have authorized the hiring of a new council personnel at a cost of $100,000 — failed.

“I commend the Council for acknowledging that the City’s financial priorities need to be in the area of public safety at this time,” Wood posted on Facebook on Sept. 13.  

Though, the mayor was technically rejecting a former decision made by the council, a law-making body, Wood believed they were all on the same page.

Until the following council meeting on Sept. 19. 

Fifth-year Council Member of District 3 Sharla Bynum felt a council member staff person was not necessary. “I have never had a hurdle or been hindered by the process we’ve had in place and I felt like I’ve been able to do my job,” she said during the Sept. 5 meeting, reiterating that point during the Sept. 19 meeting. 

Council Member at-large, Mark Kindred, followed by saying they had voted on this earlier this year during the budget session. “We unanimously passed that budget with these dollars in it,” he said. “I am trying to codify what we can do as a body following that vote.” Kindred said it was unfortunate that the veto took place. 

Council Member at-large, Ray deWolfe, also used his point of privilege to say, “I just want to shed some light on why I voted the way I did.” Taking into consideration what the Mayor wrote in her veto deWolfe said, “Part of it was, basically, working together to avoid having to hire a council staff person, to help us as a council, and I am willing to try that.” Though, deWolfe would like to have the ability to still hire someone if the need arises. 

On Sept. 5, the vote to reconsider the ordinance by the council was mixed with Bynum voting no to upholding the ordinance as well as District 4 Council Member Portia Mila. District 1 Council Member Ben Pender was absent and the rest of the council voted yes on keeping the ordinance as is. 

“The council on their agenda,” Wood explained on Sept. 19, “put on they are adjusting their council rules and in new business they will be bringing that person forward again. It used to be they can’t bring it forward, now they are changing it so they can.” Therefore, the council scheduled to vote on taking away the Mayor’s veto right, or not, and also placed hiring a council staff member on the agenda. If the Mayor’s right to veto was not voted away the council staff member item would have been not allowed to be discussed again. 

In regards to her veto that seemed to settle the matter on Sept. 5, Wood said, “I thought that maybe this was a step in the right direction because of, you know, the financial concerns they’ve brought up as a council.”

During the Sept. 19 meeting, in a 4-3 vote, the council chose to remove the mayor’s veto power. Bynum, deWolfe, and Mila dissented preferring Wood to retain that ability. 

Following that vote the council immediately voted, again, on if they could hire a staff member. Wood pointed out one change different from the original, “The only thing that’s different than the ordinance that I vetoed, one statement that says this position can’t be filled until it’s budgeted for, which they did in June.” Thus, the Council can hire a staff member whenever they want to. 

Bynum was concerned about, what she called, “the lack of opportunity to discuss.” deWolfe also felt rushed with questions about who would be doing the hiring, who would be hired, when that would take place, etc. Kindred said, “This at least gives us the opportunity moving forward.” 

The majority voted to approve the council staff member 4-3.