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Committee to review need for city council clerk

WARREN — City Council debated during Wednesday’s virtual meeting about the need for reinstating the deputy clerk position.

Councilman Ron White, D-7th Ward, is seeking to have the job reinstated because council’s current clerk, Brenda Smith, has not taken more than one or two vacation days in a row for nearly a decade because of her job responsibilities.

Council President Jim Graham voiced his support for the idea of bringing back the deputy clerk position, saying council — and the city — has been fortunate that Smith has not had to take multiple weeks off.

“What would happen if, God forbid, Brenda would have to take two months at a time off?” Graham questioned. “The city would be in trouble.”

Graham created a committee consisting of council members White, Greg Greathouse and Helen Rucker, who will review job requirements of the deputy clerk and whether the position needs to be full or part time, as well as other questions.

It was emphasized that her job is not a secretarial position that can be filled by anyone in the city. Legislation cannot be made into law without the clerk or deputy clerk’s signature, Smith said. There are statutory duties that only the council clerk can do.

Greathouse, D-3rd Ward, questioned why there seems to be a rush to fill the position, when the council took weeks to discuss the creation of a new position in the law office last year.

Graham emphasized council does not have to pass legislation for a full-time deputy clerk position, because it already exists. The position recently established in the law office did not exist, so legislation had to be written.

“If council changes the deputy clerk to a part-time position, then you will be creating a position that does not exist, and council will have to pass legislation establishing it,” Graham said.

Greathouse also questioned why the deputy clerk will make nearly $40,000 per year, which will initially be more than an entry-level police officer.

“I don’t believe someone sitting behind a desk should be making more than an officer on the streets,” he said.

Smith said the deputy clerk always has made a percentage — approximately 80 percent — of what the clerk makes.

Graham emphasized this week’s discussions are preliminary, so there is time for all questions to be asked and answered.

“We are not rushing this,” Graham said. “It could take two to three months before we begin the hiring process.”

Graham emphasized the committee will review applicants, select the three best persons to do the job, and then make recommendations to council about the three best.

“It will be up to council to select the deputy council,” Graham said. “We have to be as transparent as possible.”

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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