Macon Mayor Robert Reichert announced Thursday afternoon he is vetoing an ordinance that gives Macon City Council the power to approve or deny any future layoffs.
The mayor contends the city’s charter gives him exclusive power to hire or fire employees, and the city attorney agrees.
“I further find that it sends the wrong message to the citizens of Macon and the city employees,” Reichert said in a statement. “It confuses rather than clarifies our governmental structure and responsibility.”
But Councilman Rick Hutto, who co-sponsored the ordinance with council members Mike Cranford and Elaine Lucas, said, “It’s interesting he quotes the charter as the highest authority — and it is — but he doesn’t quote all of it.”
Hutto said the charter gives the council the authority to create, abolish and alter city positions, which he interprets to mean the council must give approval before laying off city workers.
Further, Hutto said the ordinance was requested by the City Attorney’s Office last summer as an attempt to clarify the role of the council regarding layoffs.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” Lucas said. “The charter is very clear so the legislation wasn’t necessary anyway. I think the only reason those layoffs were allowed to go through is because there were members of council who gave up their responsibilities on personnel decisions.”
To override the mayor’s veto, the council would need the votes of at least 10 of its 15 members.
“I would certainly hope the council would override it,” Lucas said. “It’s not an anti-administration vote at all. It just reaffirms the powers of the charter. Do we have the will to reassert our responsibility? That’s a question that everyone must answer.”
The council approved the disputed ordinance in a 9-5 vote at its last meeting. Councilman Erick Erickson did not attend.
Reached by phone on his way back from covering the State of the Union address for CNN, Erickson didn’t indicate he would be the 10th vote needed for a veto override. “I fully support the mayor,” he said. “I think that when council involves itself with the process, it becomes a political issue.”
Specifically, he said, if the council has control over personnel issues, it provides incentive for city employees to “suck up to council or become council pets.”
He cited the council’s own rules of order, which he said firmly place personnel decisions with the administration.
“It’s for when employees are disciplined or fired, but I think the same principle applies,” he said.
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.