In 2003, the city of McDonough changed its form of government from its previous 1981 charter of a strong mayor form of government to a council-manager form of government. This effectively stripped the mayor of most administrative duties, giving them to a city administrator or city manager.
A home rule exemption allows municipalities to change charters, but not forms of government, without legislative approval — a step that was skipped in 2003. Additionally, the language in the 2003 amendment did not specifically define the roles of the city administrator; it mostly tackled what the mayor would not be allowed to do administratively.
“It muddied the effect of the form of government of the city, because it’s not entirely clear when you read the charter document what form of government it is,” said Laurie Henderson, a Decatur-based government attorney, who was brought in by the city to lead the town hall. “It seems to change it to council-manager form of government, but it doesn’t say that. Language is missing.”
What is on the Nov. 6 ballot is a charter amendment that more clearly defines the role of the city administrator.
Under the amendment, the city administrator is charged with the day-to-day operations of the city — acting as a liaison between the council and city employees, hiring and firing, supervising departments, creating and managing the budget, among others. However, the city administrator still acts under the direction of the mayor and council.
And the mayor acts as the chief executive office —unchanged from the 2003 charter — making sure laws and ordinances are executed, presiding over meetings, voting, and signing oaths, affidavits and ordinances, among others.
McDonough resident and former council member Sandra Vincent wanted to know whether the mayor’s power to hire and fire will be restored if the new charter amendment does not pass. She said this has been a concern of residents when discussing the amendment.
Henderson said if the new charter amendment does not pass, the default charter will still be the one from 2003, which stripped the mayor of those powers. In no way will a vote against the referendum return the city to operating under the 1981 charter, which was the strong mayor form of government.
While the 2003 charter amendments changed the form of government, the city of McDonough has had a city administrator position in place since 1991.