The Macon City Council failed Tuesday to override the mayor’s veto of an ordinance that would give the council final say over the city’s future furloughs and layoffs.
In a roll call vote, the 15-member council — needing 10 council members to override Mayor Robert Reichert’s veto — could only muster eight votes.
Voting in support of the override were Council members Charles Jones, Tom Ellington, Alveno Ross, Mike Cranford, James Timley, Elaine Lucas, Lonnie Miley and Rick Hutto. Hutto sponsored the original ordinance and the override attempt.
Voting against the override were Council members Erick Erickson, Nancy White, Lauren Benedict, Miriam Paris, Larry Schlesinger and Ed DeFore.
Councilman Virgil Watkins was not present for the vote.
Last week, Reichert vetoed the council’s 9-5 vote to change a city ordinance to give the council final say over city furloughs and layoffs. He argued that the ordinance would blur the separation of powers between the mayor’s office and the council.
He contends the mayor has the sole responsibility to fill and empty city positions, while the council actually creates or abolishes the positions themselves.
Since the positions were not eliminated — just temporarily emptied of their personnel — Reichert said he has acted according to the power given him by the city charter.
Hutto has long disagreed, saying the council already has the power to approve or deny furloughs and layoffs.
While he agrees that the city’s payroll needed to be trimmed, he fears city layoffs without the council’s consent sets a dangerous precedent.
“No mayor has ever had the power to eliminate whole levels of city government,” Hutto said in defense of the override attempt.
Without the override, Hutto said future mayors could outsource public works without council’s approval or do away with the police force, using a private security company instead.
“What I’m asking is that you don’t abdicate your responsibility and to do what the charter gives us the power to do,” he said.
There was no other discussion on the matter.
After the vote, resident Wade Horton told the council he was disappointed that its members would take responsibility to approve purchases of equipment but would not take responsibility for the layoffs.
“I’m glad you guys have roll call votes,” Horton said. “It lets us see how you’re voting and who is voting what. We’re paying attention.”
To contact writer Chris Horne, call 744-4494.