GREEN: An attorney hired by the city to help the Charter Review Commission clarify an amendment approved by voters in November was blunt Tuesday when asked if he was told to look for ways to circumvent the measure.
“No,” Cleveland attorney William R. Hanna said when questioned by Councilman Matt Shaughnessy at a city council meeting. The amendment allows for the city's law director to be elected rather than appointed. However, Hanna said the city charter amendment, which says the law director will represent the people of Green, the city and then city council, does not jive with other sections of the city charter.
An attorney with the law firm of Walter Haverfield, Hanna said his job has been to help blend the amendment into the charter because the amendment as it appeared on the ballot “was unclear in certain respects and created conflicts with multiple existing charter provisions.”
Hanna explained that it was difficult to understand the meaning of the issue’s first two sentences and their impact on the duties and scope of the representation of the law director.
The two sentences of the amendment state: “The law director shall represent the people of Green, the city of Green and Green City Council in accordance with the ethical standards for Ohio attorneys. In the event there is a conflict in his duty of loyalty, a separate attorney shall be retained to resolve the conflict.”
Hanna said existing charter language says the city’s law director will serve as the: "Legal advisor of all legal matters coming before the city and … represent or direct the representation of the city in all litigations, cases or suits coming before the city. He shall prepare or review all contracts, ordinances, resolutions and other documents or instruments as required by the mayor and council."
Questioned by Councilman Chris Humphrey, Hanna said he hadn’t been trying to figure out ways not to carry out the will of the voters.
In terms of whom the law director represents, Hanna said the director’s “loyalty is to the city as an entity and then to its officials, employees and directors as agents of the entity.”
Humphrey added: “Everything is designed to keep us out of litigation in the future. If the spade work had been done at the beginning when the amendment was put before the voters, we wouldn’t be in a position of having to spend the money now to make sure it was written correctly.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t written correctly and now we are in a position to make it correct so we are not involved in litigation later.”
The commission has until June 12 to complete its recommendations and file them with the council for consideration by the voters Nov. 5.
George W. Davis can be reached at: email@example.com