The city of Sheridan will hold a special election Nov. 5, triggered by a public petition that opposed a charter ordinance city council approved over the summer. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day.

The Press has compiled a list of frequently asked questions to help Sheridan voters make their decision on election day.

What will the special election determine?

The special election will determine whether Charter Ordinance 2202, which council passed on third reading in July, will take effect.

The ballot on election day will ask voters to check a box that will say “Yes — Charter Ordinance 2202 shall take effect” if they support the ordinance or a box that will say “No — Charter Ordinance 2202 shall not take effect” if they want to see it repealed.

Will this vote eliminate the city administrator role from Sheridan’s government?

No.

While Charter Ordinance 2202 revises the duties and responsibilities of the city administrator and would effectively replace the charter ordinance that created the position, the statute establishing the city administrator role in Sheridan’s government is still in effect.

That will remain the case even if CO2202 is defeated through the special election.

Mayor Roger Miller proposed a charter ordinance in June that would have repealed the ordinance that created the city administrator, but council defeated the proposed ordinance with a 5-2 vote; Miller and Council President Clint Beaver voted in favor of repealing the original ordinance.

What is the history of Sheridan’s city administrator position?

Charter Ordinance 2158, which a previous council passed in 2015, created the city administrator position in the city of Sheridan’s government.

Another council passed a charter ordinance that would have created the city administrator in 2008, but city residents successfully defeated that ordinance through a public referendum.

When Sheridan City Council passed CO2158, residents circulated a petition in an attempt to block that ordinance as well, but the petition did not contain enough verified signatures to trigger a special election and CO2158 took effect.

Council approved the hiring of current city administrator Mark Collins in 2016.

As the referendum attempts to suggest, the creation of the position was contentious in the community and became a focal point of Sheridan’s 2016 mayoral election.

Mayor Roger Miller was outspoken about his opposition to having a city administrator during his campaign, arguing the position undermined the public’s vote by taking powers from a popularly-elected mayor and assigning them to an unelected official, and interpreted his election in 2016 as a mandate from the public to repeal the ordinance.

Since his election, though, Miller has not had enough support from council members to repeal the ordinance.

The issue featured prominently in the city’s 2018 council elections as well. Miller released a public letter urging city residents not to re-elect incumbent councilors Erin Hanke and Patrick Henderson ahead of that election because of their unwillingness to repeal CO2158. Henderson was eventually re-elected and Hanke dropped out of the race after she got a job outside of the community.

Council President Clint Beaver was also elected in 2018, along with current councilors Aaron Linden and Jacob Martin. Beaver opposed CO2158 as a candidate but Linden and Martin both said they would wait until they were elected into office to pass judgement on the city administrator position, as they wanted to see how the role functioned before deciding whether they felt it was necessary.

What is the history of Charter Ordinance 2202?

Shortly after taking office, Beaver raised concerns about CO2158, arguing that it conflicted with Wyoming state statute and noted he had heard public concerns about the ordinance, as many city residents who opposed the passage of the 2008 ordinance and CO2158 felt the city administrator role was created against their will.

Council appointed a subcommittee to work with Sheridan City Attorney Brendon Kerns and members of city staff to evaluate Beaver’s concerns about CO2158. That committee consisted of Council Vice President Thayer Shafer, Linden and Martin.

The committee concluded that while CO2158 was legal, it was unclear and was ambiguous about how some duties were distributed between Sheridan’s mayor and city administrator.

The committee drafted CO2202 to clarify those ambiguities but also to uphold Sheridan’s city administrator position as they felt it served an important function in the management of the city’s day-to-day operations.

Council passed CO2202 on third reading in July with a 6-1 vote; Miller was the sole dissenting vote.

What exactly does Charter Ordinance 2202 do?

CO2202 maintains the fundamental roles of both Sheridan’s mayor and its city administrator.

According to CO2202, the city administrator is responsible for managing city staff in its day-to-day operations and supervising the administrative functions of all city departments. Sheridan City Council and the Sheridan mayor interact with city staff through the administrator, according to CO2202.

CO2202 describes Sheridan’s mayor as the “chief executive of the city,” meaning the person occupying the role presides over
city council meetings, oversees and evaluates the performance of the city administrator, sets the agendas for council meetings and makes appointments to committees, boards and commissions with the approval of city council.

CO2202 defines the mayor as having “superintending” control over the city administrator, which means the
mayor has oversight authority but cannot unilaterally manage staff.

For example, the mayor can ask city staff to explain its street-cleaning schedule, but cannot order staff to clean certain streets.

Again, the roles assigned to the mayor and city administrator are not significantly different in CO2202 than they are in CO2158. The primary objective behind CO2202 was to clarify the language that describes those roles.

The full text of both CO2202 and CO2158 are available on the city of Sheridan’s website.

Why has this election been framed as a referendum on the city administrator position?

Despite his opposition to the ordinance, Miller chose not to veto CO2202 because a veto would have eliminated the possibility of a public referendum on the ordinance.

In announcing he would not veto CO2202, Miller asked city residents to oppose the ordinance if they were opposed to the city administrator as a symbolic message to council.

City residents who circulated the petition have also said the initiative is intended to serve as a message to council that they want the body to consider repealing CO2158 and eliminating Sheridan’s city administrator position.

Whether council chooses to accept that interpretation, however, will be entirely up to the individual council members.

The only matter the special election will directly determine is whether CO2202 takes effect. Council will have no legal obligation to revisit Charter Ordinance 2158 regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Where can I vote?

The city will open seven polling locations on election day and is asking voters to vote at the location that corresponds with their district or precinct. The locations and corresponding districts and precincts assigned to them are as follows:

District/Precinct 1-1: Ed Hammer, Inc., 107 East Alger St.
District/Precincts 2-1, 2-2,2-3, 2-4, 2-5: Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall, 1753 Victoria St.
District/Precinct 3-2: Sheridan County Courthouse, 224 S. Main
District/Precincts 3-3, 4-3, 4-4: Holy Name Church, 260 E. Loucks St.
District/Precinct 3-4: The Rock Church, 1100 Big Horn Ave.
District/Precinct 3-5: Calvary Baptist Church,1660 Big Horn Ave.
District/Precinct 4-2: Water Products & Solutions, 1831 S. Sheridan Ave.

Can I request an absentee ballot?

Yes, absentee ballots will be available until 5 p.m. Nov. 4 through the Sheridan City Clerk’s office. City Clerk Cecilia Good said city residents can request ballots from her office online, through mail, with a phone call or in person.

Absentee ballots have to be returned to the Sheridan City Clerk’s office — they will not be accepted at polling locations on election day — by 7 p.m. Nov. 5 to be counted.

Where can I register to vote?

Residents will be able to register to vote at the polls on election day, through the Sheridan City Clerk’s office or at the Sheridan County Elections office.

Who is eligible to vote?

Only residents of the city of Sheridan will be permitted to vote in the special election.

How will the ballots be counted?

According to Good, election judges will tally the ballots from their polling places the night of the election. Those results will be reported to a canvassing board — which will consist of Good, Sheridan County Election Supervisor Brenda Kekich and Kim Hein the chief deputy in the Sheridan County Clerk and Recorder’s office. Good said that board will recount the ballots to verify election results.

Matthew Gaston | The Sheridan Press