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- Paris Flash
There will be no special election for the City of Paris in November, the Paris City Council decided Tuesday.
Mayor AJ Hashmi had the possibility of a Charter election added to Tuesday’s budget workshop because state law requires the council must announce and set any city election at least 62 days in advance.
Hashmi had announced last week his desire to change the Charter so the city manager would be required to get council approval for not only hirings of department heads but firings.
City Clerk Janice Ellis read to the council seven possible Charter amendments that had been mentioned throughout the past two years, but the council decided it wasn’t worth the $9,000 cost of a special election.
The proposed Charter changes were for:
The council looked first at the proposal to amend Section 5. Interim City Manager Gene Anderson said he had no idea what anyone might have in mind concerning that section of the Charter. He said the section serves notice that cities with a charter can pretty much describe how they want to set their budgets and carry out other responsibilities.
“Do any of the council members have any interest in this item?” Hashmi asked. The council was silent.
“So you don’t think there is anything to be done here?” the mayor asked Anderson, who is also the finance director.
“No,” Anderson said.
The council then looked at the proposed revision of the Charter provisions for Initiative, Referendum, and Recall.
“I brought that up in reference to the last time (2011), when there was a referendum that basically tied the hands of the City Council in exploring the privatization of trash,” said Dr. Richard Grossnickle, who was elected to represent District 4 in the same election in which voters prohibited the council from taking the city out of the residential trash business.
“The number of signatures required really wasn’t great, given the low voter turnout of our elections,” Grossnickle said of the fewer than 350 signatures that were required to force the election.
Had the council been allowed to turn residential trash collection over to a private company (Sanitation Solutions), the city would have realized “quite a bit of cost savings,” Grossnickle said.
“My concern is, it was too easy,” he added.
“Now, if we have to have an election for just this one item, it’s not necessarily that big a deal,” Grossnickle said.
“I don’t think it’s that big a deal,” District 3 Councilman John Wright said.
Other council members agreed.
“OK, delete that,” Hashmi said.
The council turned next to Hashmi’s request to force future city councils to set aside funds for the infrastructure. He was concerned that although this council might spend money to replace old water and sewer pipes, future councils might not follow suit.
“I’m going to take that off,” Hashmi said. “I suggested it, but I think we have enough funds for the infrastructure now. We don’t need to go there anymore.”
Regarding a change in council terms from three two-year terms to two, three-year terms, it was unclear who had suggested it.
“I think you don’t need to go for an election for this. I don’t think it’s worth it. That’s just my opinion,” Hashmi said.
“Seems a waste of money for just that one item,” Wright added.
“Everyone in agreement?” the mayor asked. Everyone was.
Finally, the mayor turned to the item he brought up during last week’s council meeting to give the council veto power over a city manager’s right to fire a department head.
“I brought that up because of the fact that where it says in the Charter, ‘hiring,’ it doesn’t (also) say ‘firing.’ But if that’s the only reason why we have to spend $9,000 to put it on the ballot, I don’t think it’s worth it. But I’ll go along with whatever the council decides.”
“I agree with you,” District 5 City Councilman Matt Frierson said.
”We might bring it back if we thought there was some other thing we needed to amend,” District 2 Councilwoman Sue Lancaster said.
“That’s what I’m saying,” Hashmi said. “If it’s just that one thing, we would be spending $9,000 to change it from just hiring, to hiring and firing. If we had multiple charter amendments, I wouldn’t mind that in it. But I think if that’s the only amendment that is needed, I think it’s not worth it.”
Wright asked if it could be handled in a fashion other than a Charter amendment.
On June 17, when Wright made a motion that Anderson be named interim city manager in addition to his existing duties as finance director, he attempted to incorporate into his motion that any significant personnel moves would require the approval of the council. That would have violated the Charter.
“The only way to amend the Charter is by an election,” City Attorney Kent McIlyar said. “The only thing that comes to mind is maybe some sort of amendment to the city’s personnel policy.”
McIlyar asked Anderson his thoughts on that.
“You can’t do anything to contradict the Charter,” Anderson said.
“As far as amending the personnel policy is concerned, the Charter clearly says what it says. If we can’t contradict the charter, well, that would contradict the charter,” Hashmi said. “Let’s leave it alone for the time being.”
That said, Hashmi concluded the discussion.
“So, there are no Charter amendments.”
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra