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Gloversville council eyes changing charter

Officials consider clarifying any residency requirements

December 27, 2013
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE -Members of the Common Council may look into changing the city charter to specifically address certain positions - such as transit manager - so any residency requirements are clear.

A city resident in November told officials Transit Manager William Walrath - a Northville resident - is holding a department head position without being a resident of the city, which the resident said appeared to violate state and local law.

While the city labor attorney later said Walrath will be able to remain in his position as long as he lives in Fulton County, members of the council may look into changing the charter to clear up any confusion regarding any residency requirements for city department heads.

"The mayor has accepted [the labor attorney's opinion] as the answer to the question, so at this point and time I don't think anybody is going to dispute it based on [the labor attorney's] legal interpretation," said 2nd Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds. "I think the only avenue at this time is to at some point address the charter so that this is easier to understand."

City labor attorney Bryan Goldberger's legal opinion on the matter was presented in a letter to the Common Council last week.

According to the city charter, every elected or appointed city officer must meet the qualifications established by a section of the state Public Officers Law.

However, according to the charter, certain appointed city officers do not need to be residents of the city, but must be residents of Fulton County: city assessor, city clerk, deputy city clerk and commissioner of finance.

According to Goldberger's letter, the transit manager position is not considered a "public officer" under the state Public Officer's Law and is not a "city officer" under the charter.

"Generally speaking, department heads/managers are not considered 'public officers,'" the letter dated Dec. 18 reads. "Section C-10 of the charter lists the titles that are to be considered as 'city officers.' The list does not contain the title of 'transit manager.'"

However, 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said she did not agree with Goldberger's legal opinion.

"My question is if [the transit manager] isn't an appointed officer, what is he?," Wentworth said. "He's appointed, and I don't agree with that opinion. What anybody is going to do about it, I don't know."

Other members of the council said they aren't questioning Goldberger's opinion in this matter, but may look to change the charter to provide clarity on the issue.

While members of the council aren't specifically saying how or when they would look to change the charter, they said it's important to eliminate any uncertainty so similar questions aren't raised in the future.

"I accept what [Goldberger] had to say, but at the same time it probably could be looked into whether we should make any adjustments in the charter that would make it cleaner," Simonds said. "This is the first situation I'm aware of that we've had to deal with something like this, and I imagine going forward we may run into a similar situation where this could happen."

"We should address [the charter] because with the ambiguity sometimes it's tough to come up with the right answer when there is no real definite answer on this thing," 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski said. "If we can come up with a definitive answer and make sure everybody is good with it, I'd be happy with that."

Mayor Dayton King said he supports the idea of making the charter clearer by defining any positions not specifically mentioned in it.

City attorney Anthony Casale said a change to the charter - in a situation like this - would require a change to the local law, and a public hearing would be held prior to the vote by the council. He said sometimes a referendum vote is required to change the charter, but not in this case.



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