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Overlooked law could oust Holter

Staff writer

An apparent oversight in Marion’s city code and charter ordinances may mean city administrator Roger Holter is ineligible to hold his job.

That was one of the key warnings delivered Monday night by city council member Ruth Herbel, a frequent critic of Holter’s job performance.

“I’m bringing these violations — at least, what I believe are violations — to the attention of the council to see how we should handle them,” Herbel said. “I’m thinking we really have to make corrections.”

State law requires that city officers other than city attorney, municipal judge, and police officers be qualified voters within the city.

Using home-rule authority, Marion exempted itself from those provisions more than 15 years ago. However, in later assembling ordinances into the city’s code and instituting other exemptions to state law via charter ordinances, it wiped out the exemption without reinstituting it, according to Herbel’s research.

Holter resides at Marion County Lake, not within the city limits.

“The city administrator is clearly listed as being one of the city officers,” Herbel said. “A nonresident is not allowed to hold that position. The city clerk is required by statute to notify the city council that that position is vacant.”

The city also is required, Herbel said, to specify duties and compensation for appointed city officers via ordinance, rather than in the city’s administrative manual.

It also must publish ordinances in full rather than publishing only ordinance summaries, she said.

State law allows cities to opt to publish summaries instead of ordinances, but city code adopted after that option was made available does not include the option and specifies only that ordinances must be published.

“The city by its own action has chosen to restrict itself from exercising the summary option,” she said. “This could bring into question the effectiveness of any ordinance summarized instead of published.”

Council members had no immediate reaction other than to ask that an opinion be sought from city attorney Susan Robson, who was not present for the meeting, on whether Herbel’s detailed research of the issue was accurate.

“We can take care of this if necessary,” Mayor David Mayfield said.

Passage of a new charter ordinance might be required to reinstitute the city’s waiver of residency requirements.

A charter ordinance requires the affirmative votes of four council members. When Holter was reappointed last month, his appointment received only three votes. Herbel and council member Jerry Kline, who was absent Monday night, were opposed.

A charter ordinance also could be subject to a referendum if 10 percent of more of city voters signed petitions challenging the ordinance.

Council member Chris Costello, a licensed attorney, asked for more time to examine a packet of information Herbel distributed moments before making her presentation.

“I don’t want to take a look at it here,” he said.

Without voting, the council agreed to take up the question again at its next meeting, June 1.

Herbel started researching the issue last month after Holter had said during a council meeting that the duties and pay of city officers no longer needed to be set by ordinance.

City code appears to state that ordinances are required in such cases, and the city’s most recent charter ordinance, approved in 2017, appears to agree.

Last modified May 20, 2021

 

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