WESTMINSTER - City employees probably will have to wait until next year for their new manager since council members declined to appoint someone to temporarily fill the position.
City Council members approved the position Monday night -- unanimously overriding Mayor W. Benjamin Brown's veto in a roll call vote -- but tabled Councilman Samuel V. Greenholtz's suggestion that Planning Director Thomas B. Beyard be appointed interim manager.
A lingering debate between the mayor and council over who controls city government spawned the proposal for a city manager.
Greenholtz proposed the hiring of an interim manager, saying the mayor or council could be subject to a $100 fine under the ordinance if either gave direct orders to any city employee.
However, City Attorney John B. Walsh Jr. said the ordinance's section on chain of command does not take effect until the city manager is hired.
"I do not feel the subsection submits any member of the council or the mayor to an infraction," he said.
Robert A. Zarnock, chief counsel on legislation for the state Attorney General's Office, agreed with Walsh's interpretation.
"Particularly when you are dealing with a penalty, the infraction would literally go into effect when a city manager is appointed," he said.
The ordinance does not provide for any exceptions to the chain of command, nor does it specify who would hear or rule on complaints about violations.
"It never dawned on me about how we would go about hearing the complaint and if there is a review board," said Council President Kenneth J.
Hornberger. "That's something I'll have to talk to Mr. Walsh about."
Walsh did not respond to repeated calls yesterday.
Members of the council said they agreed to table the issue since they rarely give the staff orders.
"As a committee chairman, I more or less try to coordinate activities and not dictate," said Councilman Edward S. Calwell.
Councilman William F. Haifley said city employees usually approach him about concerns, while Councilman Mark S. Snyder said his contact with city employees has been limited.
"As far as giving a staff person orders, I really don't do it," Snyder said. "I'm one of the more hands-off councilmen."
Brown, however, said he interacts with the staff on a daily basis and will continue to do so until a city manager is appointed.
"I'm comfortable with the interpretation the city attorney gave (Monday) night," he said.
Haifley agreed, adding that he specifically asked the attorney whether the council needed to appoint an interim manager because he wanted everything to be legal.
"The same people who were in charge Monday morning are in charge Tuesday morning," he said.
Beyard also said nothing had changed.
"I am managing my department and the other department heads are managing theirs," he said.
Haifley and Calwell were also concerned Monday night that appointing an interim manager would deter other qualified candidates from applying.
Advertisements for the post will run in area newspapers Sunday and three times next week. Applications will be due Nov. 21, after which the personnel committee will begin interviews.
"I don't want to see us put somebody in a most favorable position to fill the job," Haifley said. "It's better to have an open-ended process, and I just don't see what the emergency is."