Council appointment process comes under fire

Columbus City Council President Mike Mentel
Columbus City Council President Mike Mentel

Columbus City Council president Mike Mentel Wednesday defended council’s process of appointing new members.

Republican Mayoral candidate Bill Todd says the process is too secretive and possibly violates the Columbus City Charter. Todd has asked Attorney General Marc Dann to investigate.

For the third time in the last six months, Columbus City Council is ready to appoint a new council member. It’s the tradition that’s been followed for years, departing council members do not just decide not to run again; They quit, leaving the party in control of council – lately the democrats – the ability to appoint a replacement from the same party. That appointee must run for the post the following November, but they do so with the advantages of incumbency.

Part of the process of picking an appointee occurs in secret – the interview with current council members. Now Republican mayoral candidate Bill Todd says the secret interviews are wrong.

“Not only is is bad public policy it’s quite possibly illegal as well,” said Todd.

To clarify the legal questions, Todd has asked Attorney General Marc Dann to investigate. Dann has recently ordered Ohio State University and the Public Utilities Commission to be more open to the public.

City Council President Mike Mentel defends the process as legal. He says the only deliberations between council members and the only votes occur in public.

“That determiniation comes on the floor of council, not a second sooner,” said Mentel.

Mentel points out candidate resumes are publicized, the interview time and location is public knowledge and the vote is public. Mentel says he as council president, he nominates the one candidate after conferring with other council members. The entire council approves or denies the nominiation. In the past several years the votes have all been for unanimous approval.

Mentel admits party politics plays a role, but when asked if council members have phone or hallway conversations about the candidates. Mentel brushed them aside.

“There are no back door deals or votes.”

When asked for his definition of deliberation – Mentel deferred to the city attorney’s office.

So for the next 8 months, 3 members of City Council – a near majority – will make decisions without having had to go before voters. Mayoral candidate Bill Todd says 8 months is too long.

Mentel says ultimately the voters do have the final say. Todd also calls on the two most recent appointments – Andrew Ginther and Pricilla Tyson – to be set aside. Mentel called the demand non-sensical. City Council is set to act Monday on the latest appointment – to fill the spot of former city council member and now judge Patsy Thomas.