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Manager Ordinance petition filer, village president discuss points

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Village Trustee Roxanne King, and manager Caleb Katz, listen to discussion regarding recent ordinances.

CALUMET — Village residents on March 10, will have the opportunity to decide by referendum whether they prefer the responsibilities of the village to be carried out by a clerk elected by the people, or a manager appointed by the Village Council.

The question on the ballet, as it appears on the village’s website, reads: “Shall Ordinance No. 154 which transfers duties of elected officials to an appointed manager be approved?”

There have been frequent arguments for a number of years between various village councils and various residents over whether it is a requirement of the council to conduct a public hearing before adopting an ordinance.

When the Village Manager Ordinance passed last October, village resident and former Trustee Peggy Germain circulated a petition that would take the decision from the council, and put it to the voters. Germain brought up the petition at the November regular meeting, again arguing the ordinance was passed illegally. Trustee Roxanne King then entered a motion to have the administrator follow the manager ordinance anyway until the election, which carried. Former Trustee Virginia Dwyer said at the time that King’s motion defeated the purpose of the petition, and was most likely illegal.

In an interview earlier this week, Germain said her reason for the petition was that the village does not belong to the council, it belongs to everybody, and that voters, and not the council, should have the right to make decisions.

“The village has been governing without the consent of the people for years by not having passed an office manager ordinance years ago, when the first office manager was hired and duties were taken away from the elected clerk,” said Germain.

An elected clerk, she continued, is required to live within the municipality and experiences village life.

“In other words, what it’s like to not have garbage service or police protection,” she said. “Managers and other employees have no residency requirement.”

The most important, and salient, point, said Germain, is that an elected clerk is accountable to voters, and they can vote them out, whereas, “an office manager solely serves at the whim of the president and the council.”

Village President Dave Geisler said he does not feel that the issue is that simple.

“The contract (states) that the manager is employed ‘at will,’ which means he can be fired at any time the majority of the council so desires,” said Geisler. “Whereas with an elected clerk, you cannot have a recall election during the first year they are in office, and you can’t have a recall the last year they’re in office. They’re elected to four-year terms, so during Year One and Year Four, no matter how bad they are, you cannot do a thing. You cannot have a recall election. In Years Two and Three, you can have recall elections, but that’s expensive; as you know from past experience, they don’t succeed. So, if the clerk fails to perform their duties, it’s much harder to remove a clerk than it is an employee.”

Geisler also said that the Village Manager Ordinance has other advantages, too.

“What it does is,” he said, “many things that are day-to-day decisions don’t have to come to the council, and that makes meetings, shorter, and to tell you the truth, it’s sort of a poor use of trustee time. They should be dealing with bigger issues, and not ‘should we close streets for a parade. That’s not a good use of their time.”

The day-to-day decisions aren’t so important to the operations of the village that will have a major impact, said Geisler, which presents a wiser use of trustee time.

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