Charter Review Minutes, July 19, 2016
CITY CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION
COUNCIL COMMITTEE ROOM
5:30 p.m., JULY 19, 2016
Members present for roll call: Mike Atcheson, John Beaudoin, Lenny Cacchio, Brad Cox, Michael Dayton, Fred DeMoro, Jim Devine, Jose Ruiz, Terry Trafton, Ron Williams
Members absent for roll call: Gladys Bratton, Paula Derks (arrived at 5:37pm)
Staff Liaisons present: Trevor Stiles, Jackie Heanue, Denise Chisum, Stacy Lombardo
Call to Order: The July 19, 2016, City Charter Review Commission was called to order by Vice- Chairman Williams, at 5:32 p.m. at City Hall, 220 SE Green Street, in the Council Committee Room. Notice had been provided by posting the meeting notice with a tentative agenda, at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting, at both entrances into City Hall. A copy of the agenda was also placed on the City’s Website.
1. Public Comments
(This is an opportunity for the audience to address the Commission on any items not on the agenda.)
Former Councilmember Bob Johnson addressed the Commission with comments regarding some of the proposed changes to the Charter.
His first comment was regarding Section 3.2 Composition. He said that in light of the Supreme Court decision a few years ago that unlimits the amount of money that goes to campaigns, smaller districts would give candidates the ability to talk to residents and larger districts would make it easier for special interests to put money into direct mail late in the campaign. He said that “every citizen should have the right to run for office and not have to worry about large amounts of money influencing them”. His opinion is that there should be eight districts.
He then stated that in Section 3.4 The Mayor Pro Tempore, the Mayor is an executive position and the Mayor Pro Tempore is a legislative position, he does not believe that another level of government should be choosing the leader of the Council. He is also not sure that committees and liaisons should be chosen before the beginning of the new fiscal year because the new appointees might not be familiar with what went on the previous year, especially with the Finance and Budget Committee.
Next he discussed Section 3.5 Administrative Policy Matters, employees are subject to the direction and supervision of the City Manager and to him that means that the only way Councilmembers can get answers for constituents is solely through the City Manager. This could mean that the City Manager could control the answers to Councilmembers.
He asked for clarification on Section 3.6 Prohibition Against Holding Other Office, what is an incompatible office.
Section 3.15 Charter Violation and Ethics Code. He voiced his concern about “shall be brought to the attention of the entire City Council”. He believes it will be used as an attempt to intimidate Councilmembers and he asked who would pay the Councilmember’s defense.
His last statement was that he believes the Mayor should have veto power.
Commissioner Trafton asked Mr. Johnson if his comments on Section 3.5 mean that he believes there might be other ways to get information other than funneling everything through the City Manager and if he is proposing specific language for the section.
Councilmember Carlyle asked the Commission to take another look at Section 3.15. She believes it should define what can and cannot be done and what the sanctions would be. She didn’t think it had been made clear that the sanctions would be included in the Code of Ethics. She asked the Commission to reconsider the two-thirds vote of the entire Council in this section and what would happen if six Councilmembers are in violation. A Commissioner asked if she is recommending that it be higher than the two-thirds vote. It was clarified that Councilmember Carlyle was concerned about what would happen if the majority of the Council was involved in coercion.
2. Commission Comments –
Commissioner Ruiz asked about Section 8.1 (d) to see if the Mayor needed to be added here as well when referring to a two-thirds vote.
Commissioner Cox asked the Commission to look at a policy or language regarding social media and electronic communication by the Council. Mr. Arbo stated that it is handled through a state open records law that gets amended about every three years.
Commissioner Devine reminded everyone that their goal is to finish by Christmas and they are only half way through. Commissioner DeMoro stated that regulating communication beyond official media would be suppressing free speech.
Commissioner Beaudoin wanted everyone to know that the issues brought up in public comments were brought up for Commission discussion as part of the first exercise they did at the beginning of the process. They were not reactionary to events or testimony.
3. Approval of July 6, 2016, Action Letter
The Commission was advised of a correction to the motion and second on Item A #2 to leave Article VII, Section 7.2 (a) as written with no amendments.
On motion of Commissioner Beaudoin and second by Commissioner Cacchio, the Commission voted unanimously 11-0 (Chairman Bratton “Absent”) for approval of the Action Letter for July 6, 2016, as amended. Motion passed
4. Discussion of Articles
A. ARTICLE VII. MUNICIPAL COURT
1) Section 7.2 Judges –
Vice Chairman Williams introduced Mr. David Elliott who was a member of the original Charter Commission. Mr. Elliott is an attorney and he wrote article VII Municipal Court. He was asked by Vice Chairman Williams to provide some background information on the issue of the presiding judge. Mr. Elliott reported that it was something that was carried over from the Code of Ordinances. He said that there are twenty-seven references to presiding judge in the Code of Ordinances and asked who would perform those duties if that term was taken out. He was asked about the duties of the presiding judge and his definition of senior judge. Mr. Elliott reiterated that if the two judges can’t come to an agreement on an issue they can go to the presiding judge of the circuit court for mediation. Commissioner Atcheson suggested defining the term “senior judge” and clarifying what “by agreement” means in case there are more than two judges at some point.
Commissioner Cacchio made a motion to change senior judge to the longest tenured judge in the Municipal Court. The motion died due to a lack of a second.
Commissioner Trafton said that he believes there is merit in rotating the presiding judge position. Commissioner Cox thought that would get into personnel issues.
On motion of Commissioner Atcheson and second by Commissioner Devine , the Commission voted unanimously 11-0 (Chairman Bratton “Absent”) to have legal bring back a definition of “senior” judge and a position of the presiding judge in the event more judges are added. Motion passed.
B. ARTICLE VIII. PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
1) Section 8.2 Powers and Duties Section 8.2 (a) General – No Discussion
Section 8.2 (b) Property – Commissioner Cacchio stated that he feels strongly that any purchasing of land by the Parks Department should require pre-approval by the City Council because it reduces the tax base and increases taxes for residents. Vice- Chairman Williams expressed his concern that getting the City Council involved would bring politics into the process. Commissioner Derks asked for clarification on how the City Council could reverse a land acquisition that had already been completed. It was noted that a Councilmember sits on the Parks Board as a liaison so they would report acquisitions to the full Council before any property purchase was made. Commissioner Cox asked Mr. Tom Lovell how much land is donated to the Parks Department through endowed gifts or developers as opposed to acquired land. Mr. Lovell, Administrator of Parks and Recreation reported that some land is a combination of both, part gifted and part purchased.
On motion of Commissioner Cox and second by Commissioner Atcheson , the Commission voted 9- 2 (Commissioners DeMoro and Cacchio “No” and Chairman Bratton “Absent”) to accept Article VIII, Sections 8.2 (a & b) as written with no amendments. Motion passed.
2) Section 8.3 Parks and Recreation Fund Section 8.3 (a) Tax Levy – No discussion Section 8.3 (b) Separate Fund – No discussion
On motion of Commissioner Dayton and second by Commissioner Devine, the Commission voted unanimously 11-0 (Chairman Bratton “Absent”) to accept Article VIII, Sections 8.3 (a & b) as written with no amendments. Motion passed.
3) Section 8.4 Annual Report – No discussion
On motion of Commissioner Beaudoin and second by Commissioner Dayton, the Commission voted unanimously 11-0 (Chairman Bratton “Absent”) to accept Article VIII, Sections 8.4 as written with no amendments. Motion passed.
4) Section 8.5 Review of Board Decisions – Commissioner DeMoro opened the discussion by suggesting a change from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority for the Council to take action on decisions made by the Parks Board to bring it in line with other areas of the Charter. Commissioner Atcheson said that a lot of people on Boards and Commissions spend a lot of time flushing issues out and to have a simple majority of the Council flip a unanimous Board decision, simply because it becomes political, under- minds the efforts of the Board or Commission.
On motion of Commissioner DeMoro and second by Commissioner Cacchio, the Commission voted 2-9 (Commissioners DeMoro and Cacchio “Yes” and Chairman Bratton “Absent”) to amend Article VIII, Sections 8.5 to a simple majority, replacing a two-thirds vote. Motion failed.
On motion of Commissioner Beaudoin and second by Commissioner Derks, the Commission voted 9-2 (Commissioners DeMoro and Cacchio “No” and Chairman Bratton “Absent”) to accept Article VIII, Sections 8.5 as written with no amendments. Motion passed.
4. Roundtable – The Commission thanked Mr. David Elliott for attending and sharing his experiences from the original Charter Commission.
Adjournment: The July 19, 2016, City Charter Review Commission meeting was adjourned by Vice-Chairman Williams at 7:23 p.m. at City Hall, 220 SE Green Street, Council Committee Room.
Action Letter by Stacy Lombardo, Public Works Administrative Assistant, Recorder.