Questions about the function of local government bodies have been circulating recently after misinformation spread in some parts of Wyoming regarding how local commissions are formed and how they operate.
A Committee of the Whole meeting, held virtually on June 22, became confrontational after residents raised concerns that the city was scheduled to hear a proposal regarding the creation of a new commission to address inclusion and equity in Wyoming.
What’s Up Wyoming and the City of Wyoming want to share the facts around city council, committees, commissions and other local government entities. The following questions and answers will hopefully help residents understand the work of City Council, administration, committees, task forces and commissions and how they work together to help further the city’s goals.
What is the structure of Wyoming’s city government?
Wyoming government is determined by a City Charter adopted by voters on November 3, 1981. It provides for a council-manager form of government in which the City Council members are the policy makers. City Council has broad powers to legislate policy and determine taxes, spending and appropriate levels for city services. Council members are directly elected by resident voters and serve a two-year term, with no term limits. The mayor presides over council and has the authority to appoint a Mayor’s Court magistrate, among other duties conferred upon mayors by the laws of Ohio. The vice mayor assumes the mayor’s responsibilities in his/her absence.
The City Manager is appointed by council to carry out the council’s policies and provide direct service to the community. The City Manager is responsible for the administration of affairs for the city, the enforcement of all laws, ordinances, and resolutions, and has the authority to make all appointments and removals of staff within the city. The City Manager appoints all staff within the city government organization. This includes the appointment of Department Directors for all City Departments, which are:
- Police Department
- Fire & EMS Department
- Finance & Customer Service Department
- Community Development Department
- Public Works and Water Works Department
- Recreation Department
What is the role of Wyoming’s commissions?
Commissions are created by the Charter or by ordinance and are composed of volunteers who serve on bodies reporting to City Council. These groups do not make laws or propose regulations, nor can they spend money without the approval of council. The city’s various commissions offer expertise and advice on defined objectives in unique areas of interest to the community of Wyoming. A few examples of commissions include: the Economic Development Commission, the Environmental Stewardship Commission, and the Promote Wyoming Commission. Applicants are reviewed and interviewed by council for each post on a commission, are voted for inclusion by council, and serve for a defined term. A member of council participates on each commission to ensure the city’s objectives are met, and to share information with the commission and report back to city council.
What is a task force and how does it operate?
A task force is established through a mayoral memorandum appointing one council member and a group of residents to review a particular issue and make a recommendation. Members are appointed, not voted in, and the task force exists only until it completes its work. It has no budget and a staff member or two also participates. Recent task forces have looked at the future of Chisholm Park and a sidewalk down Compton Road. Each task force ultimately produces a set of recommendations to council on how to move forward or solve a specific situation or challenge.
What is the difference between a committee and a commission?
Committees consist of council members, not volunteers, who consider unique issues and then vote to send these matters to the Committee of the Whole, which is where all items are discussed before going to full council for consideration. The mayor and vice mayor assign individual council members to committees and name their chairs. Usually, committees have three council members and a staff member or two, depending on the topic (staff cannot vote). There are five standing committees: Finance, Public Safety, Buildings and Equipment, Streets and Roads, and Law. Some committees meet on a routine basis, most are ad hoc.
The Committee of the Whole is a unique committee comprised of all council members where new issues and ideas are discussed before being voted on in a full council meeting. The Committee of the Whole generally meets monthly. This meeting is important to the functions of council because no more than three members of council can meet to discuss a city topic without an announced public meeting. This meeting is an opportunity for city council to work together, discuss and debate the finer points of all topics up for consideration. Committee of the Whole is used as a working, deliberative meeting, to dig into the details of various proposals and actions due to come before council. Often, issues will circle through Committee of the Whole over a matter of months or longer, depending upon the issue’s complexity. By the time an issue makes it to a formal city council meeting, it has usually been discussed at length during Committee of the Whole, with the majority of council voicing support for the planned or proposed objective.
How does City Council consider the recommendations from commissions and task forces?
All information sent up from city commissions and tasks force groups is organized into a written or oral report, articulated to City Council. At Committee of the Whole, city council members together decide what to move forward for a vote at City Council meetings. City Council is the only body that can appropriate city funds, hire a city manager, and be held directly accountable to resident voters. When sworn in, the elected members vote upon a mayor and vice mayor. The mayor is paid a $500 annual salary. Council members receive a $60 annual salary.
Are all city government, committee and task force meetings open to the public?
City Council, COTW, Council sub-committees, Board and Commission, and Task Force meetings are subject to the Ohio Sunshine Law which requires that meetings be posted, the public be included to listen, and minutes be prepared.
Public comment is required by City ordinance at City Council meetings. Public comment in all other meetings is determined at the discretion of the presiding individual of that meeting.
City Council may go into Executive Session, which is a closed and unrecorded session of the body, pursuant to City Code. No formal voting may occur in Executive Session. Conditions in which Executive Session may be used include:
- Consideration of personnel matters
- Consideration of the purchase, sale, or lease of property
- Conference with the City Solicitor
- Preparation for negotiations with City bargaining units
- Discussion of security arrangements or emergency response protocols
- Consideration of confidential information related to economic development matters
- Consideration of an issue that is quasi-judicial in nature
Town Hall Format Set for July 26 for Public Input
The community is invited to attend a town hall meeting July 26 at 7 p.m. in a virtual forum, hosted by the newly formed citizen-led Wyoming Community in Action, to discuss issues surrounding inclusion and equity in Wyoming. City Manager Lynn Tetley and Police Chief Rusty Herzog will address written questions during this forum. Submit questions in advance to WyomingCommunityInAction@gmail.com. To attend, go to globalgotomeeting.com/join/402878013 and use access code 402-878-013.