Nelsonville City Manager Chuck Barga announced last Tuesday that he is retiring at the end of this month (this Friday is the 31st).
Meanwhile, Nelsonville City Council President Tony Dunfee appointed a search committee for the city’s next city manager, and a special council meeting has been called for Thursday evening (tonight) to work on vetting interim city manager candidates.
Barga explained in an email that the meeting will be conducted entirely in executive session – behind closed doors – in order to “interview candidates for the interim (city manager) position.”
Typically, public bodies such as city councils in Ohio can only meet in executive session for a limited number of reasons. The hiring or firing of a public employee is one of those reasons in Ohio and many other states. However, the law varies in each state as to whether or not interviews can be conduct in executive session. According to a state-by-state analysis of these laws on the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press website, Ohio’s Open Meetings Laws don’t explicitly address that issue.
“…Since (Ohio law) does permit executive sessions ‘to consider’ the ‘appointment’ or ‘employment’ of a public employee or official, public bodies can make a strong argument that their interviews of candidates for public employment can be conducted in closed session,” the website reads. “Conversely, a purpose of the executive sessions is to discuss the relative merits of candidates candidly without the inhibiting presence of that or other candidates. Closing the interview process does not seem to foster that purpose.”
City Attorney Garry Hunter added in an email Tuesday that Council intends to hire an interim manager soon, to serve until after the city can advertise for a permanent city manager and hire somebody for that job.
Barga, 62, was appointed Nelsonville’s interim city manager in late February 2017, and became the city’s permanent city manager several months later.
Barga wrote in an email to Nelsonville city staff and officials on Tuesday last week (Jan. 21) that he would be retiring “for the second time” in his life, saying it was time for him to open a new chapter in his life.
“I will probably be selling real estate with my wife as long as she will have me,” Barga explained. “…I will continue to be at work assisting in the transition to new leadership. It has been my pleasure to be your city manager for almost three years. All of you helped a rookie learn the ropes and make my life easier. I hope I have done some good for the city. I have always said, you are the reason I came to work every day. I am sure my replacement will be even better.”