The Orem City Council may be forced to comply with a "stinky decision" from the Utah Supreme Court that will take some power from elected city officials and give it to an appointed official.
The ruling on a case last year defined which responsibilities should go to the executive branch of city government and which should go to the legislative branch.In most Utah cities, the decision takes power from the city council and gives it to the mayor, but in Orem the power will go to appointed city manager Daryl Berlin.
Other Utah cities with the city manager/council form of government include West Jordan, West Valley City and Brian Head, Berlin said.
"I understand the Supreme Court wanted to model cities after the federal government, but in Orem's case there can be no separation of power," Councilman Keith Hunt said during Tuesday's council meeting. "How can there be a separation of power when the legislative branch can fire the executive branch?"
Orem has used the city manager/
council form of government since 1980. Under that system, the council and part-time mayor have made policy decisions and reviewed site plans, ruled on specific zoning matters, appointed people to serve on various committees, granted licenses and handled bid awards, among other things. They also have the power to hire and fire city managers.
To comply with what they interpret to be the Utah Supreme Court's wishes, the City Council would have to limit its action to policy making and turn other responsibilities over to Berlin.
"The city administrator would take all the heat for any decisions that were made," Hunt said. "It wouldn't take long for Daryl or anyone in his position to upset enough people to get fired. It would make this place a revolving door for city managers."
Mayor Blaine Willes and most council members support a move to a chartered form of government that would allow Orem to write its own rules. The charter would have to be approved by the state Legislature.
Paul Johnson, Orem City attorney, said it could take 18 months to two years to get a charter accepted. First an election would have to be held to choose committee members to write the charter. Then another public vote would be required to see if Orem citizens supported the change in their city's form of government. The charter would then go to the Legislature for review.