Home Politics Athens chief prosecutor’s position doesn’t formally exist

Athens chief prosecutor’s position doesn’t formally exist

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The Athens City Council met on Monday night to discuss a wide array of topics. Due to the cancellation of the meeting last week because of weather, the council had to hold committee meetings and a special session to read ordinances.

One of the bigger items on the agenda was the need for an official chief city prosecutor’s position. Although the city of Athens had a chief prosecutor, the position is not technically written into city law.

When former Law Director Pat Lang took his position as an Athens County Court of Common Pleas Judge, chief prosecutor at the time, Lisa Eliason was appointed acting law director by the Mayor.

On Wednesday the Central Committee of the Democratic Party will meet to decide who will fill the seat of Law Director to finish out Lang’s term. Eliason expects to be appointed Interim Law Director at that time. She has also filed her paperwork to run for the seat officially in the November election.

In the coming weeks, the council will put together an amendment to the standing staffing ordinance to go through the human resources office to get the position officially on the books. It will turn one of the remaining prosecutor positions into a chief prosecutors position without a change in pay or benefits, no new personnel coming in and no additional cost.

An issue involving an adjustment to the non-union pay scale was a topic of great discussion at the meeting as well. Second Ward Rep. Jeffrey Risner explained the issue in further detail.

“What we’re doing here with this ordinance is giving a 1 percent pay raise to most of the non-union employees that are under the mayors direction. Back in December we authorized a pay raise of 2 percent and then the mayor later came to us and said that we should raise it 1 percent.”

Risner said, what happened was that back in December the auditors office decided to give their employees a pay raise of 3 and 4 percent. The then Law Director, Pat Lang, wrote an opinion that said as long as the said offices had the necessary money appropriated for their employees, then it was within their jurisdiction to do so.

Prior to that, it had always been the tradition that it was council who raise wages and salaries  and that the various departments came to council to ask their permission but council lost that authority with the opinion Lang passed.

Risner said, the mayor, at that point, said now that he had the power to raise the wages of his employees he didn’t need councils approval.

“I do not like that idea at all. I like the idea that the department comes to council and makes a request and then council approves that,” Risner said.

The argument Risner is making is not if the non-union pay personnel deserve an extra 1 percent. He believes they do, it’s who has the power to decide those raises.

“If council doesn’t control the purse strings, then who does?” Risner said.

The council decided that this was a serious management and personnel issue that needs to be resolved before they can move any further with this ordinance.

On a lighter note, Mary Nally spoke about the Athens Community Food Initiatives accomplishments over the past year. They have contributed over 300,000 pounds of food to those in need, as well as training about gardening, saving seeds and sustainability throughout Athens County. “We are very pleased that this program has continued and that we have had many families continue throughout the years we’ve had this program,” Nally said.

At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson said, “It goes to show how much the city strives to take care of it’s own and provide for others.”

To follow along with the theme of engaging the community, Rose Troyer then spoke about Athens Beautification Day. It will be held on April 19 this year, and Troyer says it will be bigger and better than ever.

“This year we’re hoping to reach 1,300 volunteers. We’re getting more projects, so hopefully we can reach that goal because we’re going to have over 50 projects lined up, some new ones lined up, and we’re teaming up with both the Cardboard City and the Watershed Program,” Troyer said.

The council also reminded community members to clean off their sidewalks after snow storms. Homeowners are susceptible to a citation from the city code office if their sidewalk is not cleared four hours after a snowfall has stopped.

“I got a call today from a mother whose daughter fell twice on her way home from school because of the ice on the sidewalk, and her only other option was to walk in the street,” Third Ward Rep. Michele Papai said.

“A lot of people walk to the uptown area, and have to traverse the ice. So this is just a reminder that our code office is out there focusing on safe routes to school areas, so please, please clear your sidewalks.”

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