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Questions exist on need for full-time city job

A new part-time Warren City Council clerk might be warranted, but after years without one, there should be no rush.

City council debated the need either to fill an existing full-time deputy clerk position that has remained vacant for many years, along with the possibility of amending language instead to make the position part time.

Councilman Ron White, D-7th Ward, is calling for the hiring because he said he believes it is necessary as a backup to council clerk Brenda Smith. Indeed, employees earn their time off and deserve to use it as desired. But hiring someone — particularly in a full-time role — largely to cover vacation time or emergency personal leave seems irresponsible.

Smith recently told council that her job is not a secretarial position that can be filled by just any city employee because, she points out, under Ohio statute, legislation cannot pass into law without the signature of either the sworn council clerk or deputy clerk.

OK, we get that. But we see years without a deputy clerk on the job as proof that a full-time clerk is unnecessary. Further, the timing is extremely poor. During a global pandemic, when revenue is down and we all are called upon to tighten our belts, adding new staff to fill long-vacant positions is not the right answer.

Now, a newly formed council committee will explore the job requirements as well as the need for either a full-time or part-time deputy clerk. Council members Greg Greathouse, D-3rd Ward, Helen Rucker, D-at Large, and White make up the committee.

Greathouse questioned both the need for the job and the push to fill it quickly. Further, he questioned the proposed salary — $40,000 per year, which he said initially is more than an entry-level Warren police officer.

Greathouse’s arguments are sound, despite Smith maintaining that the deputy clerk always has made a percentage — approximately 80 percent — of what the clerk makes.

Past practice, however, does not need to dictate current decisions. These are unusual times, after all.

We were glad to hear council President Jim Graham’s insistence that this decision need not be rushed. If the committee recommends filling the position — full time or part time — we also urge them to ensure it has been properly advertised and qualified candidates are appropriately vetted. Passing the job on to a friend or family member will rightfully lead only to more distrust by taxpayers.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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