HILLIARD, Ohio (WCMH) – Hilliard City Council is weighing a proposal to strip the city’s manager of some hiring and firing powers, weeks after its former finance director of 29 years said he was unfairly “kicked to the curb.”
The seven-member council is expected to consider on June 12 a motion to rewrite part of its current charter that gives City Manager Michelle Crandall – whose role was created by voters in November 2018 – the ability to singlehandedly hire and fire the municipality’s finance and law directors.
President Omar Tarazi first proposed his idea to remove Crandall’s discretion over the two positions on May 8, two weeks after the city’s former finance director Dave Delande told council members and a packed audience that he was wrongfully terminated by Crandall in February over a $219,000 phishing scam.
The proposal, which Tarazi called a structural change to improve checks and balances between Hilliard’s governing arms, would make the city’s law director a publicly elected, rather than appointed, position. The city manager would retain the ability to fire its finance director but only if a majority of council signs off.
“If the finance director thinks things are going in the wrong direction, and the city manager doesn’t want that out – it’ll affect their job, or whatever – the finance director knows they can’t be fired by just the city manager acting alone on a whim or on a moment’s notice,” Tarazi said. “They would also have to get five votes of council, so there’s a balance there.”
Tarazi tried to drum up support from other council members by pointing to similar constraints on the city manager’s powers outlined in nearby suburbs’ charters, including those of Dublin and Upper Arlington.
Dublin’s city manager must get council’s approval before appointing or removing a city finance and law director, according to its city code. In Upper Arlington, the same holds true for its finance director. Its city attorney, however, is solely appointed and terminated by council.
Although Tarazi earned support from Councilmember Les Carrier, changing the city’s code may be an uphill battle, as other council members expressed skepticism about the proposal.
Councilmember Pete Marsh called it a solution in search of a problem. Allowing Hilliard residents to decide who fills the law director role, he said, risks politicizing an otherwise nonpartisan position.
“I don’t think we have a problem, but if we did have a problem, I can’t think of a single time in my life that I said, ‘You know what the problem needs? It needs a politician; that’ll fix it,’” Marsh said.
Instead of rewriting the city charter through council alone, Councilmember Cynthia Vermillion said a charter review commission – comprised of community residents – is the best way to approach the topic.
“This is a huge change that you’re proposing, and I don’t think that doing it this way does our residents any good,” Vermillion said.
Council is expected to vote on the motion at its next meeting on Monday, June 12.