By Josh LaBella
The Charter Revision Commission worked through the City Councils’ recommendations to them in a meeting Monday night – taking them each with a grain of salt. The commission will vote on the updated language of the charter in a meeting this coming Monday.
The commission held a joint meeting with the council last week to discuss the meaning of the legislative body’s 15 recommendations to them on final edits they wish to be made to the city charter. One of the more surprising views that came to light during that meeting was the sentiment of some City Council members who wanted to see the position of mayor completely removed from the charter.
In Monday’s meeting, commission chairman Ed Granfield quickly put that proposal to bed.
“We’re not diluting the mayor,” said Granfield. “I don’t care what they say.”
The commission did build consensus to adopt some of the council’s recommendations. One such change they will be making regards the qualifications of the city manager. A proposal from Councilman Aaron Charney sought to require a graduate’s degree opposed to the previously specified master’s degree. The commission agreed that was a good change which would broaden the pool of applicants.
They also changed the requirements for council approval of a candidate for the city manager position and the budget. Instead of the previously written supermajority, the council will need a majority plus one to approve either motion. The commission also agreed to establish the council’s recommendation that the body be able to have control over the employment contracts of leadership positions in city government – before a candidate was selected.
One recommendation the Charter Revision Commission gave into, but with a caveat, was pay for city council members. In the original version of the revised charter, the council was not to receive payment for their positions.
The council recommended the stipend they currently receive go back into effect. To address this recommendation, the commission put language in the charter that would require the council to have a special session, complete with public input, in order to vote to pay themselves.
Commission Vice-chairman John Carrano pointed out that 62% of legislative bodies in Connecticut are uncompensated.
“If they’re going to harp on this,” said Granfield, “well then let’s put their feet to the fire and make them make it a public matter. Instead of just letting it slip through every year [like it has] for the past 60 years.”
There were two issues the commission spent the majority of their time debating. The first of which was the process for selecting a city manger and, along with that, how much control the mayor would have in that process.
In the first option for how to construct that process, the mayor would convene a search committee for the position, find a candidate and recommend them to the council. The council would then approve the candidate by a majority plus one vote.
In the second option, the mayor would convene a search committee, find a candidate and the council would vote on to approve or deny the candidate with two thirds vote.
The commission decided on the former rather than the latter. In either case, the mayor is permitted to take part in the vote.
The final issue they covered was residency for the city manager, which has been one of the most hotly contested components of the revised charter. While most of the commission members understood the belief that the manager should live in the city, they thought it should be something discussed at the contractual or job posting level, not stipulated in the charter.
Members of the commission have previously stated that the residency issue was an aspect of the charter they struggled with the most. Carrano and other members have voiced the concern that implementing a residency requirement would limit the applicant pool.
“None of us are interested in accepting the council’s version of this,” said Granfield. “We’re going to stick with ours.”
After the commission approves these changes in their meeting next week, they will deliver a final report to the council by Sept. 27. The council, in turn, will have 15 days to approve or deny the revised city charter. The council also has the ability to approve or deny individual parts of the proposed charter.