Mayor urges panel to consider charter proposal prohibiting officials from holding two posts
May 25, 2005 - Crestwood Charter Commission members should consider recommending an amendment to the City Charter that would prohibit city officials from holding two positions at the same time or at least place a time limit on how long someone could hold two positions, according to Mayor Roy Robinson.
The mayor's comments were made last week during a pub-lic hearing conducted by the Charter Commission, which has been meeting since mid-February.
Robinson, who was elected mayor April 5, said during the election campaign that City Administrator Don Greer, who also is the city's police chief, should not continue to serve in both roles. During the May 17 public hearing, he contended that Greer "is not a qualified, certified city manager'' and probably would be eliminated from consideration if he applied for the Crestwood city administrator's post.
"... I think we ought to ... put into the charter that no one can hold more than one position. These are key positions and just because somebody can sit in that position does not mean they're qualified,'' Robinson said. "What I'm proposing is that if the city administrator has to — or someone other than the city administrator — has to take it over, there should be a time limit like six — no more than six months and there cannot be any delay of looking for a replacement ... I think it gives one person too much power, as I've stated before, to hold down two positions ...''
Commission Chairman Jim Brasfield, a former alderman and mayor, said, "Mr. Mayor ... you mentioned six months. I wondered whether you kind of threw that out or ...''
Robinson said, "I just threw it out. I mean it could be three months. I mean what I'm saying is not allow someone to delay the active (pursuit) of a qualified person for that position just so someone else can hold the job.''
Brasfield said, "... I recall when you and I served on the Board of Aldermen, there was a period of time where there was some discussion ... that the parks department and the public works department be combined into one department. So what you're suggesting is not a charter amendment that would prohibit the Board of Aldermen from combining two departments?''
Robinson said no.
Brasfield continued, "... What you're suggesting — I just want to make sure I understand what you're suggesting — is that in the same example that without combining the two departments that one person couldn't serve as park director and public works director for longer than a certain period of time.''
Robinson said, "Certain period of time, just until we find a qualified person because normally a park director has different qualifications than a public works (director) because public works usually is an engineer, parks director's not. I'm not saying that either one of them probably couldn't do an adequate job, but if we're going to have these positions we ought to have the people that are qualified and who have a proven record of performing in those positions.
"So that's what I'm saying and I know there are times, I think the charter does give a provision in there where the city administrator can do the job of another until they're replaced. I think it says that, but it doesn't give any time limits and as I've told publicly and I've told Mr. Greer, I do not like the fact that he's a police chief and a city administrator. It's unhealthy to allow this to occur because it gives one person too much power and it's not — and he is not a qualified, certified city manager ...,'' he said.
"He may have performed those duties, but he isn't — if we went out to look for and he could probably, he could apply, but he probably would be eliminated because of the fact that he hasn't done this for many years and I wouldn't want someone who just worked a couple years as a city administrator coming into a place where we have problems like we do here in the city. I'm talking about financial and all the other ...,'' Robinson said.
The Charter Commission has up to 12 months to complete its work and submit any proposed amendments it deems necessary to the Board of Aldermen. Voters would have to approve any charter changes. Commission members also could decide that no changes are needed.
During their review of the charter, commission members have identified several issues they believe need further discussion and public comment, including term limits. Under the charter, the mayor and aldermen are limited to serving three successive three-year terms, not including time served to complete an unexpired term. Commission members have discussed whether to have voters reconsider the term limit provision for aldermen, but not for mayor.
Commission members also are discussing whether a censure provision for elected officials should be added to the charter and whether changes are needed to the percentage of signatures required for initiative and referendum petitions and recall petitions.
During the public hearing, about a dozen speakers addressed the commission with roughly six favoring the existing charter provision for term limits and two opposed to term limits. About three speakers were opposed to adding a censure provision and about two were opposed to changing the percentage of signatures required for initiative and referendum petitions and recall petitions.
Jim Wolfe said, "... I don't see any reason for not keeping term limits in place. As you can understand in the recent past year, there's been a lot of attention on this here Crestwood and you've noticed a lot of changes. And I feel like in the past with the people that were constantly in this chair as the aldermen, there was very little change ... and I think a lot of the people are afraid to run against anybody because of the fact that they had all the support of their fellow aldermen. So I believe a term limit might get more people involved than there is ...''
Denise Murnin said she was opposed to the censure proposal because "that sounds pretty serious to me, a violation of any of the charter provisions and I think that it's required then, the dismissal of elected officials ... Elected officials should be well aware of the provisions of the charter and if they're not, then I think they're being negligent in their duty as an elected official and if they are aware and then violate a provision, I think either way they should be dismissed from office.''
She also questioned how many times an elected official would be censured before being removed from office.
Vicki Cross said, "... The term limits, I feel that the people vote and they elect who's in office, so I don't really think that term limits or — that needs to be in there. Anyone can run and that's why we have a democracy because you can vote who you want in.''
The Charter Commission will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, at City Hall, 1 Detjen Drive.