Proposed charter changes spark real concern in some
July 20, 2005 - Proposed changes to the Crestwood City Charter recommended by the Charter Commission must be a real source of concern to some residents.
That's the only conclusion we can reach given recent efforts challenging the legality of the Charter Com-mission. As some may recall, resident Martha Duchild in May questioned the establishment of the commission, contending that language in the existing charter prohibited a review committee from convening until 10 years after the date the charter was adopted — Nov. 7, 1995.
The charter states, "From time to time, but not less than every 10 years, the mayor and Board of Alder-men shall provide for a Charter Re-view Committee to consider whether any amendments to this charter are appropriate.''
During the May 24 Board of Al-dermen meeting, Ms. Duchild contended that based on that language, the Charter Commission should not have been convened.
But City Attorney Rob Golterman disagreed with Ms. Duchild's interpretation of the charter language, saying at one point, "... It is my interpretation of that sentence that in every 10-year period the Charter Re-view Committee meets at least once, but if the board chooses they could convene from time to time. That's my interpretation. I understand you have a different interpretation and that's fine, but that was my interpretation.''
Interestingly enough, it turns out that Ms. Duchild is a member of the recently formed Crestwood Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, an organization that takes credit for the Board of Aldermen's repeal of an ordinance approving a lease agreement with the Westfield Corp. for space at West-field's mall in Crestwood.
The city would have leased space at the mall while City Hall was renovated to include a new police facility.
While the signatures gathered by the organization played a role in the decision of the board to rescind the lease, the fact that bids for the renovation project came in $1 million over budget most likely was the overriding factor considered by aldermen.
During last week's Board of Alder-men meeting, Steve Nieder, another member of the Crestwood Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, alleged that the city's Charter Commission was established in violation of the state's Open Meetings and Records Law, also called the Sunshine Law.
Citing the minutes of the Jan. 25 Board of Aldermen meeting, Mr. Nieder, speaking on behalf of the citizens' group, alleged that former Mayor Tom Fa-gan's appointment of the Charter Commission members violated the Sunshine Law because the agenda for that meeting did not include any mention of the appointments under "Communications,'' the part of the meeting when the appointments were made.
We disagree with Mr. Nieder's assertion that the Charter Commission was illegally established. So does Mr. Golter-man, who told this newspaper that after researching the issues raised by the Crestwood Citizens for Fiscal Re-sponsibility, the appointments made by Mr. Fagan did not violate the Sunshine Law, but were consistent with the city's historical practice of making appointments to volunteer boards and commissions during the "Communi-cations'' part of board meetings.
Ironically, Mr. Nieder recently was appointed by Mayor Roy Robinson to the city's Economic Development Com-mission.
Though we do not agree with his allegations regarding the Charter Commission appointments, using Mr. Nieder's "logic,'' his appointment to the Economic Development Commission was done in direct violation of the Sunshine Law and therefore was illegal.
Mayor Robinson appointed Mr. Nieder to the Economic Development Commission during the "Communications'' part of the June 28 Board of Aldermen meeting, but the agenda for that meeting lists nothing under "Communica-tions.''
If Mr. Nieder believes the Charter Commission was illegally established — and we only can conclude he must given his public comments — we believe he has no choice but to resign from the Economic Development Commis-sion because he was illegally appointed.
And to take Mr. Nieder's "logic'' a step further, every appointment and reappointment Mayor Robinson made during May and June would have to be considered illegal because they all were done under the "Communications'' part of the meeting, yet the agendas for the May and June meetings list nothing under "Communications.''
But that would be ridiculous.
If some residents really had a problem with the establishment of the Charter Commission, we believe they should have voiced those concerns in January — or even in Feb-ruary when the panel first started meeting. Or perhaps residents should have voiced those concerns in April 2004 when then-Acting Mayor Richard Breeding made appointments to a Charter Commission.
Given their public comments, it's no secret that some members of the Crestwood Citizens for Fiscal Respons-ibility are opposed to proposed changes to the charter being recommended by the Charter Commission. If that's the case, start gearing up your campaign to defeat the proposed changes.
In the meantime, we believe the Crestwood Citizens for Fiscal Responsbility should be commended for their in-volvement in their city government. But at the same time, we believe their fellow citizens need to scrutinize very carefully some of the claims they are making.