The Canton City Council will get its first look at two amendments involving the controversial removal of the mayor's full-time staff members during their first meeting of 2013 on Thursday evening.
The first ordinance on the agenda has been submitted by Mayor Gene Hobgood and seeks to explicitly allow mayors of Canton to appoint an administrative assistant persuant to City Council approval. The assistant would report directly to the mayor, but would be available to assist council members on an as-needed basis.
A second ordinance has been submitted by Councilman John Beresford and Councilman Bill Bryan that would modify the city's budget to remove funding for the mayor's current administrative assistant position.
The amendment will remove $33,000 from the $51,984 salaries and wages budget item and transfer the money into the contingency fund. The amendment specifically states that it will remove the funds for the mayor's administrative assistant with this transfer of money.
On Dec. 30, Hobgood vetoed two proposed ordinances, one of which also dealt with the mayoral staff.
The vetoed ordinance would have deleted a paragraph of the City Charter that allows the mayor to appoint staff members. This ordinance was brought forward by Bryan, who claims the move is a cost-saving measure.
"No cities in Canton’s size range employ any Mayor’s staff; absolutely none except Canton. The fact is that this is simply an unnecessary luxury. The almost $65,000 that Canton spends every year for this position can be put to much better use elsewhere," Bryan wrote on Canton-Sixes Patch on Dec. 8.
"The City of Canton with its' [sic] population of more than 23,000 deserves a full-time Mayor's Office at City Hall," Hobgood writes in his explanation of his veto of the previous legislation. "Eliminating the Mayor's Office at City Hall essentially eliminates the Executive Branch of City Government as one of the three branches and upsets the system of checks and balances."
The mayor's vetos will be the subject of a 7:15 p.m. special called meeting. Apart from the staff issue veto, Hobgood also vetoed the proposed pay raise for future mayors and council members.
Hobgood defended this veto by writing that Canton is in its worst economic situation in 90 years, and it would not make fiscal sense to provide a 300 percent increase in salaries at this time. He admitted that the compensation due Canton's elected officials "lags behind" cities of similar size, but believes their pay raises were enacted during times of economic plenty and it would be unwise to follow their lead during the current economy.
The mayor also said that the removal of the city's pension plan for elected officials, coupled with the freezing of salaires, would save the city $106,400, money Hobgood said could be used to improve emergency services.
The agendas and ordinances for all meetings and discussions to be held tonight at City Hall are attached to this article. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, Canton-Sixes Patch will be hosting a live stream of the session starting at 6 p.m.