By BRADEN LAMMERS
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore filed an action in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 on Wednesday in response to the City Council’s efforts to move the city’s communications director position under the oversight of the city clerk.
Wednesday’s filing is a petition to determine whether or not the council exceeded its statutory authority in several instances, asks for a preliminary injunction against the council and asks the court to declare several city ordinances invalid for “infringing upon the mayor’s statutory authority.”
The filing is the latest in a string of actions during the last month related to the city’s communications director position — which started with an Oct. 15 vote by the city council to remove authority over the position from the mayor and give it instead to the city’s parks director.
In its next meeting, however — on Nov. 5 — the council voted to change the position again, deciding to move authority of the job away from the parks director and give it instead to the city clerk in an effort to keep the job. Before those changes, the communications director job had, since its creation by former Mayor Tom Galligan, operated under the mayor’s authority.
Moore alluded to his doubts over the council’s authority to assign control of the position to the city clerk during a Wednesday morning meeting of the city’s Board of Public Works, in which he presented the board with a request to hire a New Albany public relations firm to serve as the city’s communications liason despite the council’s passage on first reading of an ordinance giving that hiring authority instead to City Clerk Vicki Conlin.
The ordinance that would transfer control to the clerk has only been heard on one reading and would need two more readings for its passage.
Conlin on Wednesday said she has not made a determination on whether or not she will hire a public relations officer to replace the communications director, as the decision still lies with the city council.
“That’s up to the council,” she said. “I haven’t done anything [yet].”
Conlin again said the council would have to approve the ordinance on two more readings before she would think about hiring someone for the position.
When asked if she thought the clerk’s office was an appropriate place for the city’s communications director, she said the office is neutral, is run by the city clerk and that she has marketing and public relations experience.
“I keep all records and all contracts come through this office,” she added. “I don’t think there’s anything that says I can’t have that under my office.”
But the city’s administration disagreed.
“The city‘s communications, as evidenced by the position’s job description, is not the function of the clerk...the city’s communications is an executive function,” according to the petition submitted on Moore’s behalf.
The petition also outlined the clerk’s duties as spelled out in Indiana code, which does not say specifically whether or not the clerk can supervise a communications position. However, the filing does cite that all administrative and executive functions “shall be exercised or performed by the city executive, another city officer or a city department. [And] if an executive or administrative function is not assigned by a statute, ordinance or resolution, the city executive shall assign that function to the proper department or officer.”
The suit also seeks to clarify the role of the city’s Redevelopment Commission, as it claims the council does not have statutory authority to approve Tax Increment Finance dollars.
According to the petition, “the redevelopment commission, as a separate taxing unit, has the sole and exclusive statutory authority to approve such expenditures,” and as a result asks for ordinance 2006-0R-6 that spells out who has control over TIF expenditures to be declared invalid.
A final shot at the council was taken asking to declare ordinance 2008-OR-4 invalid that set up the city council to act as the city’s Parks Authority Board.
According to the petition, the move for Jeffersonville from a third to a second-class city was based solely on 2000 census figures and not the 2010 census numbers. As a result the administration argues, “the Jeffersonville Parks Authority exists contrary to Indiana Code...and should be abolished.”
City Council Attorney Scott Lewis said he had not yet received a copy of the petition when contacted Wednesday evening and said he was disappointed the newpaper received a copy of the petition before he did.