Photo by Heather Middleton
By Curt Yeomans
The Morrow City Council approved a new ordinance that sets up a process for the body to oust one of its members. The measure was approved, Tuesday, by a 3-0 vote.
The ordinance creates a hearing process for removing council members, who are found to have overstepped their boundaries. It was written in response to a situation the council was facing in its bid to remove one of its own, Councilman John Lampl, from office.
Lampl, who previously served as Morrow's city manager and economic development director, was elected to the city council in March 2010. In November, the council voted 3-0 to remove him from office, after hearing an investigative report that Lampl created a "hostile work environment" for the city's finance director.
But, the council did not have any procedures in place, at the time, to conduct a removal hearing for a council member. Now, with the new ordinance in place, the council can move forward with the process of removing Lampl from office, said City Attorney Laurel Henderson. She said the measure will help guide the city, not only in the Lampl situation, but in any similar situations that occur in the future.
"By having the ordinance ready, then, the process is in place, if it needs to be used," Henderson said. "This has taken about a month's delay, just to get a process in place, so it will save time [in the future]."
Henderson said that although Mayor Jim Millirons and the city council had the option of acting as the hearing body in Lampl's case, they will go with their other option, which is to bring in an independent hearing body, made up of city attorneys and city managers with no ties to Morrow.
The ordinance stipulates that members of the independent hearing board must be licensed attorneys, or city managers, with at least 10 years of experience in city government.
Members of the board also cannot have any official ties to Morrow's government, according to the ordinance.
Henderson said a date for a hearing has not been set, but she believes it may get underway next month. It will all depend on the people the council puts on the hearing board, she said.
"We're working on getting the board together," Henderson said. "We don't have one yet, but we're working on getting that, and then, that board would organize itself, and come up with a time when they can do a hearing. So, it's probably going to be sometime in February."
Millirons said the hearing board will be appointed by the city council, during a council meeting, although he could not specify when that would be. He said he and the council want to be fair to all of the parties involved.
"We don't have a deadline on it," he said. "We just want to be methodical, and fair as we go through it all. We've got some appointments to make, [and] dates to be set."
The mayor added that this is the first time, in the 31 years he has spent as a city official in Morrow, that a hearing has been needed to remove an elected city official from office.
"It's been an educational process, as well as judicial, because not having to go through this stuff before, it's meaningful to do it now," Millirons said.
Lampl did not attend the city council meeting, on Tuesday. Last month, he said he did not object to the ordinance, if it allows him to have a lawyer, call witnesses and present evidence during a hearing.