Council: Let voters decide

GLOVERSVILLE – The future of the city’s form of government will rest with the voters in November.

In a 4-2 vote, the Common Council decided Tuesday to send the proposal to hire a city manager to a public referendum.

The proposal calls for the city to change to a city-manager form of government, in which a council-appointed manager would be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the city.

Currently, the city’s elected mayor handles many of those duties. Under the proposal, the mayor would be a member of the city council and preside at meetings.

The proposal also calls for establishing an assistant city manager position, which would be filled by an existing city department head.

During a public hearing Tuesday on the proposal, city residents spoke for and against changing the form of government. Some said the council should review the idea further before making a decision.

“There’s nothing wrong with the government now, except you will not work together,” said longtime city resident Benjamin Robb as he pounded on the podium at City Hall.

“When I was on the council, I thought the city-manager type of government was good,” said former council member John Castiglione. “I still have strong feelings that it would be good. However, I feel that the way things are being handled now are not really in the best interests of the public.”

He recommended the council delay making a decision and appoint a public committee to investigate the pros and cons.

The council, however, decided to conduct the referendum on the city charter revision in the November general elections. Council members Wrandy Siarkowski, Robin Wentworth, Jay Zarrelli and Ellen Anadio voted yes, and members Arthur Simonds and James Robinson voted no. Third Ward Councilman Stephen Mahoney was absent.

If the referendum is approved, the new form of government would take effect Jan. 1, 2018, after current Mayor Dayton King’s term expires.

The referendum on the ballot will ask voters, “Should the city of Gloversville revise its form of government to that of a city manager?”

During discussion about the referendum Tuesday, King thanked residents for coming and commenting during the hearing, but told them no matter what they said, the council members already had made up their minds.

During the hearing, city resident Jean Chain, a former city councilwoman, said she supports the idea of a city manager.

“Unlike others, I know the idea has been tossed around in the past. A few years ago, when it first came up, I looked into it. I thought it was a great idea then. I think it’s a great idea now,” Chain said.

“We have nowhere to go but up,” she said.

Resident Richard Diefendorf said he opposes the new form of government.

“By having the city [manager], you’ve taken the voting away from the citizens and are saying they don’t know what they’re doing, but the council people do,” he said.

Second Ward Councilman Simonds agreed with Diefendorf.

“I do believe wholeheartedly the reason for this push is because some council members here and some people from the community don’t like Dayton King,” Simonds said.

First Ward Councilwoman Wentworth said people had the opportunity to learn about the proposed new form of government at a meeting June 24. She said there will be more opportunities for people to learn about this type of government before the vote in November.

Wentworth said the change wouldn’t take the leadership vote away from the public because residents still would vote on who represents them.

“This is the opportunity to bring it to the people and let them decide,” Fifth Ward Councilman Zarrelli said.

Under the proposal, the city manager would be the chief executive officer of the city, direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices and agencies of the city, attend all Common Council meetings, prepare and submit the annual budget, and make recommendations to the council. The manager would be in charge of the city’s finances.

According to the proposal, the council could not interfere with the city manager’s personnel appointments or removals; the city manager would award contracts or make purchases during emergencies; and the council would set the manager’s compensation.

The proposal also calls for the position of assistant city manager. “The position of assistant city manager will not result in an additional employee within city government, but instead will result in the assignment of additional and broader duties and responsibilities to an existing department head,” the proposed law states.

The assistant would help the manager with government operations and serve as acting manager in the manager’s absence.

City officials previously said the change would eliminate the finance commissioner position.

Under the new form of government, the council would be composed of the mayor and six council members. The mayor would be elected at-large. The mayor would be a voting member of the council and preside at meetings, and would be recognized as the head of city government but have no administrative or executive duties. The deputy mayor would act as mayor during the mayor’s absence.

King said today he was not surprised by the council’s decision.

“I think the four members of the council in the majority really had their minds made up. As long as we have this group of council members, it’s very clear they’re in control,” King said.

He said the council should have spent more time reviewing the idea, but he would support the voters’ decision.

He said he thinks the change would cost the city more money.

“At the end of the day, you’re going to have to pay for what you want,” he said.

If the change occurs, he said he may still run for mayor again under the new structure.

“I wouldn’t pack up my toys and go home,” he said.

The proposal also calls for a charter commission to be established to implement the change of government.

Leader-Herald Managing Editor Tim Fonda contributed to this report.