The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 9, 2013

Council debates own rights, punishments

OTTUMWA — The City Council debated just how far their boundaries should extend in interviewing, hiring and firing city staff.

The council's behavior and involvement in the hiring of department heads was up for debate at Monday night's work session. While the council does directly interview and hire the city administrator, city attorney and city clerk, it doesn't currently have the ability to directly participate in the interviews of department heads or their staff. The question Monday was whether the council should be able to participate in the interviews of other important department heads, such as public works and finance directors.

Councilman Jeremy Weller said the council's hiring abilities should be limited to the three aforementioned positions.

"I don't think any of us really need to be sitting in on fire or police chief interviews, or any other department head interviews, for that matter," Weller said.

City Administrator Joe Helfenberger strongly suggested that if councilmen are to sit in on interviews as observers that they try as hard as possible to make it to the interviews of all applicants for the position.

But Councilman J.R. Richards said that could be unfair to councilmen with full-time jobs, unlike himself and Councilman Bob Meyers, who are both retired and have a better chance at being able to attend all interviews.

"The problem is all of us may have the intention to observe all the interviews, but if something comes up where we can't go, what's our frame of reference? Only the one or two we did see," Meyers said.

While Councilman Brian Morgan said the council should be able to sit in on interviews of department heads because of their importance, Meyers said Helfenberger is "paid the big dollars" to do just that.

Meyers also said councilmen should not sit in on interviews for staff below department heads.

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