By Timothy Cox
Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue is proposing a contract with a Fanning/Howey Associates engineer that would serve as a hybrid consulting position to fill the vacant community development director’s post and give the city in-house professional engineering services it now lacks.
Celina City Council members at tonight’s regular meeting will be asked to consider an emergency ordinance authorizing LaRue to enter the agreement with engineer Kent Bryan. Bryan would serve a minimum of 20 hours per week throughout the remainder of the year. The cost would be about the same as the salary of recently-fired Community Development Director Sue Canary — $4,800 per month.
The agreement would run through the end of the year but includes language that makes it automatically renewable with the agreement of both sides.
Although there have been no public discussions on the issue, LaRue said she believes council members will support her plan. LaRue explained her intentions for the community development position during a series of telephone calls to council members preceding Canary’s dismissal.
“I expect it to be taken care of tonight,” LaRue said of the emergency ordinance, adding she does not expect council members to want to discuss the issue in committee. “We are prepared to answer any questions that might come up tonight.”
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has warned public officials about sidestepping open meetings laws through “round-robin” meetings — a series of individual talks with a majority of the members of a public body.
“A public body must not ... circumvent the act by scheduling back-to-back discussions of public business, which, taken together, are attended by a majority of the members,” Attorney General Jim Petro’s office ruled in the last update of Ohio’s open meetings manual.
If the consulting agreement with Bryan works out, it could lead to a new full-time position in the city administration that would replace two other jobs. The position will be re-evaluated at the end of the year to determine if the full-time post of Community Development Direct-or/City Engineer should be created, says a memo to council members from Safety-Service Director Mike Sovinski.
The city now has two separate posts to handle those duties, although the city engineer position was created a few years ago but never filled due to funding concerns.
Under terms of the contract as it is now proposed, Bryan would work in office space at the city administration building on West Market Street and would attend council and committee meetings. He would be responsible for duties “associated with both capital projects and day-to-day operational projects.” More specifically, his work would involve conceptual planning, grant-writing, schematic designs and solving daily engineering problems involving city infrastructure or utilities, the contract states.
Bryan is the brother of city council member Collin Bryan.
LaRue originally had planned to secure Kent Bryan’s services through a contract with his current employer, Fanning/Howey of Celina. That has now changed, LaRue said, adding that Bryan plans to leave his job at the Celina engineering-architectural firm.