Editor’s note: The following is from a Sept. 3 memo from Merced resident and former City Councilman Michael Belluomini to the current Merced City Council.
The City Charter needs an amendment to clarify its provisions regarding the terms of City Council appointed officers.
Article V section 500 paragraph two specifies that “the City Manager may be removed from office by motion of the City Council adopted by at least five affirmative votes.” Thereby the charter establishes a super majority for current and future city councils to dismiss the city manager. This provision is consistently followed and may be included in City Manager contracts for employment.
Article VI section 600 specifies that “in addition to the City Manager, the City Council shall appoint the City Attorney, Finance Officer, and City Clerk, who shall serve at the pleasure of the City Council, and may be removed by motion of the City Council adopted by at least four affirmative votes.” This appears to establish that a simple majority of current and future city councils is needed to dismiss council officers. All actions of the City Council require as a minimum a majority vote, four votes; however, the authors of the charter state this explicitly in regards to dismissing officers appointed by the council.
The current City Attorney was contracted in October 2018 with a provision that states if the City ends its contract without cause or with cause an affirmative vote of at least five of the City Council members is required at a regular meeting of the council. This established a requirement for a super majority of the council to dismiss the attorney in seeming contradiction to the City Charter provisions.
The draft City Attorney contract was reviewed by the acting City Attorney as are all major city contracts and was approved for council consideration. The charter words which state “by motion of the City Council adopted by at least four affirmative votes,” may create an impression that four votes is a minimum but more votes can be required by contract. Conversely, since all council actions require a majority vote it seems that the intent may have been different when the charter specified the number of four votes for dismissing all council officers except the City Manager.
If the number of votes to dismiss a council appointed officer is negotiable in employment contracts then it follows that a vote of five, six, or seven (unanimous) could be required to dismiss a council officer by terms of a contract. With potentially four new council members being elected every two years it seems a disservice that one council can negotiate a higher vote requirement to dismiss an officer for future city council members than is specified in the City Charter.
Please consider deleting the words “at least” from Article VI section 600, or in some other way clarifying the meaning of that section.