SHERIDAN — City residents began a petition drive this week to initiate a public referendum on a recently-passed charter ordinance in hopes a successful campaign would push Sheridan City Council to reconsider eliminating Sheridan’s city administrator position.
Citizens launched the petition in an effort to overturn Charter Ordinance 2202 — which revised some of the duties and powers of the city administrator, but kept the role firmly in place —that council passed in July. Though opposed to the ordinance, Mayor Roger Miller chose not to veto its passage, as an overturned veto would have closed the possibility of a public referendum.
“I am kicking (the issue) back to the public…this is kind of the final call for the public to reach out to the council and let us know how you feel on (the issue),” Miller said.
A successful appeal of CO2202 would not eliminate Sheridan’s city administrator, as the ordinance that originally created the role would remain in place.
While circulating the petition during August’s Third Thursday, Bryan Miller — who is Mayor Miller’s brother — said the referendum is intended to show council many city residents still object to having a city administrator, and urge the body to take further action.
“The city administrator is a de facto political official that we can’t touch,” Miller said. “That takes the ability of the people to control what’s going on in our government away. That’s why people are signing this.”
Miller said he and a group of about 10 city residents have been circulating the petition door-to-door and that he is confident they will obtain the roughly 642 necessary signatures — which is 10% of Sheridan voters who participated in the last general election — by the end of the month.
In 2008, a previous council passed a charter ordinance that would have created a city administrator in Sheridan, but the ordinance was defeated by a public referendum.
In 2015, Sheridan City Council succeeded in creating the city administrator role with the passage of Charter Ordinance 2158; city residents submitted a petition in an attempt to block that ordinance also, but it did not have the necessary number of verified signatures.
Mayor Miller called for the elimination of the position as a candidate for office — arguing that it took powers away from a popularly elected mayor and assigned them to an unelected staff member — and took his election as a mandate from voters to do away with the role.
City councilors have been largely supportive of the role during Miller’s time in office, however.
Council President Clint Beaver questioned the legality of the ordinance earlier this year, which prompted council to form a subcommittee to analyze the ordinance.
That committee — which consisted of Council Vice President Thayer Shafer, Councilor Aaron Linden and Councilor Jacob Martin — concluded that the administrator should stay in place, but suggested a new charter ordinance that clarified the duties and responsibilities of both the mayor and the city administrator.
That ordinance passed on third reading last month with a 6-1 vote; Mayor Miller was the sole dissenting vote.
Five of the council members — the three subcommittee members, Councilor Richard Bridger and Councilor Patrick Henderson — have been adamant that the city administrator role as proven to be an efficient means of managing the day-to-day operations of the city. With the administrator overseeing the city’s routine work, the councilors have argued, the mayor has more time to focus on big-picture goals for the community.
Beaver said while he still has issues with the use of a charter ordinance to create the city administrator position in Sheridan, he believed CO2202 was an improvement over the original ordinance.
City residents have until mid-September to collect the requisite number of verified signatures.
If the petition is successful, it would trigger a special election during which the fate of CO2202 would be determined by the popular vote.
The repeal would be a symbolic victory for the mayor and opponents of Sheridan’s city administrator position, but council would have no official obligation to reconsider CO2158.