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Charter panel presentation to board postponed again


July 27, 2005 - Proposed changes to Crestwood's City Charter most likely will not be presented to the Board of Aldermen in time to appear on the November ballot.

The Charter Commission voted June 21 to propose three amendments to the charter and originally planned to present the proposed changes to the Board of Aldermen July 12. The presentation was rescheduled for the board's July 26 meeting, but that presentation was canceled last week.

In his July 22 Operations Report to Mayor Roy Robinson and the Board of Aldermen, City Administrator Don Greer wrote, "As you review the agenda for Tuesday's (Board of Aldermen) meeting, you will notice that the presentation by the Charter Commis-sion is absent.

"Mayor Robinson informed me on Thursday (July 21) that he and Mr. (Jim) Brasfield, chairman of the of the Charter Review Commission, had been speaking and that the work by the commission is not complete,'' Greer wrote. "You will remember by charter that the commission has one full year to complete its work. The presentation will be made at an as-yet-unknown future date.''

Brasfield, a former mayor and longtime Ward 1 alderman, sent an e-mail July 22 to Charter Commission members that included an e-mail sent to him by City Attorney Rob Golterman.

Golterman's e-mail stated, "Jim, a question has recently been raised as to whether the mayor could vote to adopt an ordinance in the event of a 4-4 tie vote among the aldermen. My interpretation of the charter is that he/she probably could not, however, I think the charter, as currently written could give rise to a contrary interpretation. According to Section 3.10(d), a majority of the authorized members of the BOA (Board of Aldermen) need to vote to adopt an ordinance. That would mean five aldermen.

"On the other hand, Section 4.4(a) states that the mayor shall not vote on any question except in the case of a tie. One could make the argument that if the vote on an ordinance is tied 4-4, the mayor could attempt to break the tie and pass the ordinance,'' Golterman stated.

"Is this something the committee may want to clean up at this time? Especially in light of the recent challenges to various in-terpretations of the charter,'' Golterman con-cluded.

Brasfield stated in the e-mail, "In my view, this power of the mayor to break ties was presumed over the last 10 years to be the same as the pre-charter days. My recollection is that on one or more occasions I broke ties on ordinances during my years as mayor.''

Brasfield concluded, "In the light of this concern expressed by the city attorney and my conversations with members over the last day or so, I have withdrawn us from the agenda for the next BOA meeting. I will be back to you soon with some suggestions for a meeting date either in late August or early September.''

The Charter Commission began meeting in mid-February, conducted a public hearing in May and voted in June to propose three amendments to the City Charter, which include removing term limits for the members of the Board of Aldermen, adding a censure provision for elected officials, lowering the number of signatures needed for initiative and referendum petitions and recall elections and changing the wording on several items that either clarify or update the City Charter to current or common practice.

Under the charter, after the panel completes its work, it submits any proposed amendments it deems necessary to the Board of Aldermen and voters would have to approve the amendments for the changes to be effective.

"The Board of Aldermen shall by ordinance submit such proposed amendments to the voters at the next general election,'' the charter states.

The next general election is Nov. 8. How-ever, the deadline for placing propositions on the November ballot is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Residents in recent months twice have challenged the legality of the Charter Commission.

In May, resident Martha Duchild 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 Aldermen shall provide for a Charter Review Committee to consider whether any amendments to this charter are appropriate.''

During the May 24 Board of Aldermen meeting, Duchild contended that based on that language, the Charter Commission should not have been convened.

But Golterman disagreed with 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 Review 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.''

Though a flier distributed at the July 12 board meeting by the Crestwood Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility listed Duchild as a member of the citizens' group, she told the Call last week that she is not a member.

At that board meeting, Steve Nieder, a 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.

But Golterman told the Call that after researching the issues raised by the citizens' group, the appointments to the panel did not violate the Sunshine Law.

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