Decision on city manager unclear

Michelle Park

Kent City Council may or may not have decided its first choice for the new city manager last night.

After an hour-long meeting, the Council went into executive session, something Council-at-Large Rick Hawksley said was done to avoid disclosing inappropriate information about the candidates.

Executive sessions are opportunities public bodies may take to adjourn public meetings and discuss matters privately.

Although Council did hold executive session this week and subsequently may not disclose much information, Hawksley said citizens will learn more.

“All I can tell you is next Wednesday, there will be some public notification of what we’re doing,” he said.

The council members were not permitted to comment on discussions had and decisions made within last night’s executive session.

The three city manager candidates said they knew little about any decisions made last night.

Just before 10 p.m., Jackie Ruller, the wife of candidate Dave Ruller, said as far as they knew, all three candidates were still viable. At first, she said a phone call had been made, but she later retracted that statement and said her husband and she had yet to hear from Council.

The other two candidates, Patrick Titterington and Jerome Kisscorni, also said they had not received any phone calls. Titterington added he had been told he wouldn’t hear any word, if any at all, until this afternoon at the earliest.

Although council members were not permitted to discuss the executive session, Ward 5 Councilman Edward Bargerstock did say that “nothing formal can happen in executive session.”

His statement parallels the parameters set by the Ohio Sunshine Law. The Open Meetings Act dictates that “there can be no decision-making (actual voting) in the executive session. In fact, perhaps the only vote that may be taken during executive session is the vote on a motion to adjourn or recess the executive session.”

Bargerstock’s statement also mirrored statements made by attorney Timothy Smith, the legal adviser for the Daily Kent Stater.

“The law permits the discussion of personnel matters to be done in executive session,” Smith said.

“As long as they’re just talking, they’re not doing something illegal.”

The Kent City Charter pledges “strict compliance” with the Sunshine Law.

Accordingly, the Council had no intentions of voting during executive session, Council Law Director James Silver said before the session began.

Following Council’s executive session, Hawksley said the council’s consultant will see what he can do with Council’s first choice. Negotiations will continue until a contract is drawn up with one of the three candidates. Until that contract is drawn up, no announcement of Council’s choice will be made.

“It’s not an official decision until there’s acceptance,” Hawksley said. “Because it’s not a done deal until it’s done, we can’t tell people our first, second and third choices.”

Several council members said they did not see an issue with Council’s decision to decide on its first choice without disclosing his name to the public, citing that Council’s law director approved the move.

“According to our law director, we were allowed to do it,” said Ward 6 Councilwoman Beth Oswitch. “I took his word on it.”

Contact public affairs reporter Michelle Park at [email protected].