Charter Review Minutes, June 7, 2016
CITY CHARTER REVIEW COMMISSION
COUNCIL COMMITTEE ROOM
5:30 p.m., JUNE 7, 2016
Members present for roll call: Mike Atcheson, John Beaudoin, Gladys Bratton, Lenny Cacchio, Michael Dayton, Fred DeMoro, Paula Derks, Jose Ruiz, Terry Trafton, Ron Williams
Members absent for roll call: Brad Cox and Jim Devine (arrived at 5:35)
Staff Liaisons present: Steve Arbo, Brian Head, Denise Chisum, Stacy Lombardo
Call to Order: The June 7, 2016, City Charter Review Commission was called to order by Chairman Bratton, at 5:30 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 Web site.
1. Approval of May 17, 2016, Action Letter.
On motion of Commissioner Williams and second by Commissioner DeMoro, the Commission voted unanimously 10-0 (Commissioners Cox and Devine “Absent”), for approval of the Action Letter for May 17, 2016. Motion passed
2. Public Comments
(This is an opportunity for the audience to address the Commission on any items not on the agenda.)
Judge Altieri addressed the Commission about her concerns regarding personnel issues at the courthouse; employee application processes, retention, the current lack of communication about employee notices and how changes to the City Charter could help to alleviate confusion about who has the authority to make decisions on who can or cannot be involved in the processes.
3. Commission Comments – The Commission comments were in response to comments made at the June 2 City Council meeting and the decision to televise the City Charter Review Commission’s meetings.
Vice-Chairman Williams said that he was impressed by the civility of the City Council meeting but he was offended by their use of the word transparency because it implies that Commissioners have been deceitful and there has not been transparency. He said that no one has been deceitful and there has been no indication that anyone has been deceitful. He asked the Council to pick a word other than transparency because the innuendo is that the Commission is not doing their job right, even though, during the discussion at the City Council meeting several members stated the Commission is doing a good job. He added that his concern is that the Council might have a sinister reason for wanting the Charter Review meetings televised and if they are going to do it for this Commission then are they going to have all Commissions and Committees televised. He reminded the Commissioners that televising their meetings shouldn’t affect the way they approach the job. They should come into each meeting leaning a certain way but to remain open minded enough to change their opinion if they have been swayed by opposing views or testimony.
Commissioner Beaudoin was troubled by some City Councilmembers leap from “getting calls from Constituents” to therefore “the Charter Review meetings have to be on television” and he asked where the middle ground was. He wondered if any of the Councilmembers that received calls offered information about the dates of upcoming meetings, how to find the minutes, agendas or audio files. He then addressed a statement they made that the Commission spends public funds. He said that the City Charter Commission is not a steward of any public funds other than to put recommended changes on the ballot for public vote, which is required by the Charter, and he named a few groups that do spend public funds and asked if they will now be required to be televised. He mentioned that the subject was brought up by the previous Council, and addressed by the Commission’s Chair, but the new Council has made a sharp reversal of that decision and rejected a motion to work with the Commission on the subject. Commissioner Beaudoin then reported statistics of how many viewers watch City Council meetings online. He concluded by adding that the Council said the Commission is doing a good job so he doesn’t understand (or appreciate) the leap and the implications of the City Council’s decision.
Commissioner Atcheson stated that he doesn’t like the implications from the City Council either but the Charter Commission just needs to get their job done.
Chairperson Bratton then read a response that she had prepared addressing the comments made, and the decision passed down, from the City Council at their June 2 meeting. Her response is included in its entirety.
“I would like to say that the charter commission is an independent body and we must move forward in our task and not allow our efforts to be politicized.
For anyone watching I would like to clarify a few points that were incorrectly stated and or implied at the June 2 city council meeting.
1. Everything this commission has done from the beginning is a public record and open to the public.
2. This commission does not make decisions on how to spend tax dollars.
3. The city charter does not dictate to the city how to write contracts. All contracts and agreements entered into by the city must be approved by the city council.
4. We, the charter review commission, do not change the charter. As a group we are reviewing the city charter as required by the charter. Suggested changes have been and are proposed from many resources, such as the citizens of Lee’s Summit and city council members, who have attended charter review meetings on more than one occasion. All proposals are discussed and debated at length addressing the pros and cons of any suggested change. The purpose is to make sure our city constitution is not politicized to favor any group, special interest, or to advance an individual’s political aspirations or agenda. The city charter is designed for all citizens.
5. Following Robert’s Rules, a motion is made and seconded to either accept an article or subsection as printed or to amend. A majority vote of the commissioners present determines pass or fail of the motion.
6. The charter review commission does not finalize the charter. Nor does the city council approve or disapprove it. The final decision is up to the voters of Lee’s Summit.
7. On a personnel note. I’ve been asked several times what I think of the councils order to video live our commission meetings. The task we were asked to do by our city council members was presented as a great service to the community and non-political. For some reason something changed some council members’ definition of the process. So all I will say is, the word transparency can be a word that is used freely to distract, confuse, and disguise the users own lack of transparency.
Now, if there are no further comments……..let’s get back to work.”
Mr. Brian Head, City Attorney, was asked to clarify if the City Council can opt to not put the recommended charter changes on the ballot. His response was that the city’s charter states that the Commission’s recommendations be placed on the ballot but state statue probably requires that the City Council are the ones that place it on the ballot. He believes the Council is duty bound to put it on the ballot once it is submitted. He then brought up another statement that was made that he thought needed to be clarified; it is too early to decide if the Commission will submit all of the recommendations as one item or submit them as separate amendments.
4. Discussion of Articles
A. Article III. City Council
1) Section 3.5. Administrative Policy Matters – to be discussed with Article V
2) Section 3.7.(b) Vacancies; Forfeiture of Office; Filling of Vacancies
NOTE: Commission direction that any penalty from 3.5 should be included in 3.7 (b) Forfeiture of Office.
Brian Head, City Attorney, distributed the proposed language that the Commission had requested for Article III, Section 3.5 that would include adding a reference to Article III Section 3.7 and Article IV Section 4.6 that referred to a violation of Section 3.5. To make the changes cleaner, his suggestion was to leave all three sections as is but to add a new article.
“Article III, Section 3.15 - Charter Violation and Ethics Code. Any violation of the charter or adopted ethics code by the Mayor or a Councilmember may be brought to the attention of the entire City Council by either the Mayor, another Councilmember, the City Manager or City Attorney. Any violation of this charter may constitute a cause for discipline up to and including removal from office. The Council shall not impose any such discipline upon a member or the Mayor unless such sanctions receive an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the entire council including the Mayor. The Council shall, within one year of the adoption of the provision enact an Ethics Code governing the conduct of the Mayor and City Councilmembers.”
He was asked if there is a code of ethics already in place and his answer was that there is a very short provision about financial disclosures that are in the code. He was then asked how a violation would be introduced to the City Council. He responded that it could be introduced verbally or as a prepared document but he hopes a procedure would be laid out in the code of ethics when it is adopted. The Commissioner clarified that his intent was an attempt to make sure the offender was notified of the Charter violation beforehand and wasn’t surprised by the charges at the meeting. There was then a discussion about whether a discipline action would require a two-thirds vote or if it should require a three-fourths vote with the Mayor voting. They discussed the pros and cons and how politics could affect each percentage. The discussion then turned to whether the charter should say the City Manager may or shall bring a violation to the attention of the entire Council. The concern was that if the City Manager has a choice to bring it forward then that position could also become politicized but if the charter says they must report it then any retribution by the Council would be a violation of the charter. The next topic discussed was whether the violation should be reported to the Mayor who would make an initial investigation and determine if a violation exists and if it should be brought before the full council. Mr. Steve Arbo, City Manager was asked if he had any experience with the process in other cities and he reported that at the last city he worked for, councilmembers unfortunately accused each other of ethical violations to hurt them politically so he cautioned the commission to set the bar high to discourage misuse of the system. Chairman Bratton reminded everyone that the discussion started because the current charter doesn’t include punishments for violations and she reported that in Independence a violation of the Charter is a misdemeanor and the court decides guilt and assesses mandatory fines; if found guilty the councilmember is removed from office. Conflict of interest and separation of power between elected officials and administration were brought up as reasons to take violations straight to Council and not send them to the Mayor first. It was suggested that repeat offenders should be addressed in the code of ethics. It was asked what resources are available to help guide the group through a few of the issues they are struggling with. To find out what issues they were not in agreement on, a motion was made and seconded. They voted unanimously to pass the motion.
On motion of Commissioner Atcheson and second by Commissioner Derks, the Commission voted unanimously 11-0 (Commissioner Cox “Absent”), to add Section 3.15 - Charter Violation and Ethics Code. Any violation of the charter or adopted ethics code by the Mayor or a Councilmember shall be brought to the attention of the entire City Council by either the Mayor, another Councilmember, the City Manager or City Attorney. Any violation of this charter may constitute a cause for discipline up to and including removal from office. The Council shall not impose any such discipline upon a member or the Mayor unless such sanctions receive an affirmative vote of two- thirds of the members of the entire council including the Mayor. The Council shall, within one year of the adoption of the provision enact an Ethics Code governing the conduct of the Mayor and City Councilmembers. Motion passed.
On motion of Commissioner Williams and second by Commissioner Atcheson, the Commission voted unanimously 11-0 (Commissioners Cox “Absent”), to accept Article III, Section 3.7b and Article IV, Section 4.6b as written with no amendments. Motion passed.
4. Roundtable – The City Clerk was asked to send an e-mail to the elected officials with the future meeting dates and links to past documents.
The July 5 meeting has been moved to July 6.
Adjournment: The June 7, 2016, City Charter Review Commission meeting was adjourned by Chairman Bratton at 7:42 p.m. at City Hall, 220 SE Green Street, Council Committee Room.
Action Letter by Stacy Lombardo, Public Works Administrative Assistant, Recorder.