Council Takes Veto Out of Mayor’s Pocket
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory was dealt a defeat today in a long-festering policy debate with city council.
In a move that shocked Mallory, council passed a proposal to abolish the mayor’s so-called “pocket veto,” ending that person’s discretion about putting items on the full council’s agenda for a decision. Under the proposal, any item that receives a recommendation for approval or rejection from a council committee must go before the full group at its next regularly scheduled meeting, which typically is later during the same week that committee meetings are held.
Council voted 7-2 to approve the proposal, with members David Crowley and Cecil Thomas opposed.
The policy, sponsored by members Jeff Berding and Leslie Ghiz, was proposed in early October after Mallory had refused to schedule a vote on a proposal that would require the cost for the mayor’s bodyguard be borne by his office budget instead of the police budget.
Some council members were concerned about the amount of overtime incurred by police Spc. Scotty Johnson, Mallory’s bodyguard. Some council members question why paying any overtime is necessary, instead preferring that other officers be rotated into the bodyguard’s slot once Johnson reaches 40 hours of duty in a week. Mallory specifically requested Johnson, a longtime friend, as his bodyguard in April after activist Kabaka Oba was shot outside City Hall.
Overtime costs are included in salary calculations to establish a pension amount once a police officer retires; the more overtime accrued, the higher the monthly pension payment.
Until today’s change, a previous council rule approved in August set no deadline for the mayor in forwarding items for final approval after council committees have passed them. If the mayor chose, the items could linger until the end of the year, when another new council rule — known as the sunset clause — nullifies all items that haven’t been voted upon and cleans the legislative slate for the new calendar year.
Before that rule was changed in August, council used a rule approved last winter that prevented members from introducing items in committee. At that time, all proposals had to be introduced at the full council meeting, and the mayor could refer any item to a committee for review and debate. Council changed that rule this summer after a majority said it gave the mayor too much control over the legislative process.
— Kevin Osborne