June 26, 2020 – The City of Port Wentworth will move forward with a change in its City Charter after passage of HB 1175 passed in the Senate Thursday, carried by Sen. Lester Jackson, on the second to last day of this year's legislative sessio. State Rep. Bill Hitchens carried the bill in the House. The city will move to the City Manager form of government, similar to the City of Savannah.
The current City Council has been rocked with turmoil for months, sometimes unable to obtain a quorum, and accused at times of violating Georgia’s Open Meetings laws.
The Council hired a new City Administrator back in November, Steve Davis, and Mayor Gary Norton has publicly expressed his frustration with the conduct of some members of the Council.Government.
In March, the Council voted to pursue a change in the charter, which the Chatham County delegation then pursued in this current two-weeks of the final days of this year’s General Assembly session.
Currently, there is a Mayor and six Council Members who run the city. But the new Charter outlines that the power to hire, fire and run the City lies in the hands of the City Manager.
The bill provides for a new charter for the City of Port Wentworth; establishes the incorporation, boundaries; outlines the powers, duties, authority, election terms, removal from office, method of filling vacancies, compensation, expenses, and qualifications of members for the Council; provides for regular and special meetings; outlines the powers of the Mayor, and a Mayor Pro Tem; provides for a city attorney, city clerk, and other personnel, provides for the establishment of a municipal court and the judge or judges, and all other authorities to tax and manage the city. And, gives then the power to hire a City Manager.
“The City of Port Wentworth and the inhabitants thereof are reincorporated by the enactment of this charter,” the bills outlines.
But here is the difference for Port Wentworth: “The city manager shall be the chief executive officer and administrator of the city. The city manager shall be responsible to the city council for the administration of all city affairs placed in the city manager's charge by this charter. As the chief executive and administrative officer, the city manager shall (1) When the city manager deems it necessary for the good of the city, appoint, suspend, or remove any city employee, administrative officers, and department heads the city manager is authorized to appoint, except as otherwise provided by law, this charter or personnel ordinances adopted pursuant to this charter. The city manager may authorize any administrative officer or department head who is subject to the city manager's direction and supervision to exercise these powers with respect to subordinates in that officer's department, office, or agency; (2) Direct and supervise the administration of all departments, offices, and agencies of the city, except as otherwise provided by this charter or by law; (3) Attend all city council meetings except for closed meetings held for purposes of deliberating on the appointment, discipline, or removal of the city manager and shall have the right to take part in discussions, but not vote; (4) See that all laws, provisions of this charter, and acts of the city council subject to enforcement by the city manager or by officers subject to the city manager's direction and supervision, are faithfully executed; (5) Prepare and submit the annual operating budget and capital budget to the city council; (6) Submit to the city council and make available to the public a complete report on the finances and administrative activities of the city as of the end of each fiscal year; (7) Make such other reports as the city council may require concerning the operations of city departments, offices, and agencies subject to the city manager's direction and supervision; (8) Keep the city council fully advised as to the financial condition and future needs of the city, and make such recommendations to the city council concerning the affairs of the city as the city manager deems desirable and necessary; a (9) Perform other such duties as specified in the charter or as may be required by the city council.
The new charter also states: “The city council shall deal with city officers and employees who are subject to the direction and supervision of the city manager solely through the city manager, and neither the city council nor its members shall give orders or directions involving city business to any officer or employee, either publicly, privately, directly, or indirectly…”