Minutes of the Meeting
Charter Review Commission
11 October 2001
The fourth meeting of the Charter Review Commission began at 7:10 pm in the Library Museum Room. All members were present with the exception of Chief Tighe. Rena Tyson, alternate member, filled his position.
Minutes of the last "open meeting" were not available, so must be postponed for approval or as amended at the next meeting.
We had a general discussion of concerns. As to the Financial Town Meeting:
- What states when it will be held?
- Is there a document that states when it should be held?
- What says it should be in March?
- could it be in the State laws?
It was mentioned that Jamestown resident David Dolce, who holds a position in the Portsmouth "city", business area of government, noted that Portsmouth has eliminated the Financial Town meeting.
Comments have been heard by members from people in the community regarding the accessibility of the meeting, such as whether it should be held during the summer months, so that summer residents would have a voice.
When we reach our conclusion on possible revisions to the Charter, we will present them to the Council members to be approved or sent back to us. We need to educate the public as to what is being considered, and then it must be set up for a referendum vote, possibly in November 2002. The Council may want to put it out for approval during a special separate referendum vote earlier in the year.
There were comments regarding whether the Harbor Commission should be listed and regulated by a section in the Charter. The Charter does allow the Town Council to create ordinances such as those concerning the Harbor Commission. Mike expressed the opinion that the Harbor Commission is equally as important as Zoning and Planning Commissions. Zoning and Planning Commissions were added to the Charter when it was new because it was required by the State. The Harbor Commission has a great deal of authority.
Our purpose as the Charter Review Commission is to "fix" the Charter to help the Town run more efficiently or better.
We discussed Article 1 - Basic Provisions. Of concern was Section 104 - gender and plurality references. Should we consider general gender neutrality throughout the Charter? The Town Council has the power to change language. The Town Solicitor can be consulted to help us form the language.
In developing this document of suggestions we should have:
- a cover page
- table of contents
- historical overview or summary
We should consider a review of the Charter every six years, at the discretion of the Council.
In discussing Article II we discussed the number of members of the Council in Section 201. Should there be five Council members? Rena mentioned the possibility of seven. As to districts or wards, the political parties seem to choose representative candidates from different areas of the Town.
Should the term of office be two, three, or four years? Staggered terms were not deemed effective. Accountability was a concern, as was continuity.
When making recommendations we have to consider what the real problem is, and why do we want to consider change.
Sav brought up the subject of continuity. He believes that we should have two Clerks in the Town Hall. He suggested that there be a Clerk for the Council, and a Clerk for the business of the Town Administrator. Most Council members work full time jobs, other than Town business. Staff in the Town creates most of the continuity of Town Government business. The administrative duties are too much for one person. With new members of the Council in an orientation process, the Clerk carries the continuity.
The Town Administrator is involved in running the business of the Town. The Town Council is like the Board of Directors of a business or corporation. There should be adequate staff to support them.
It was mentioned that in the past history of Town government, we had an extraordinary Town Clerk, Rosamond Tefft, who served many years and ran unopposed, therefore providing years of continuity. Arlene Kalooski has a deputy or assistant, which has been helpful.
A new administrative position, working for the Town Council, could be an executive level "gofer". A new Department head would or could be created called the "Clerk of the Council".
We discussed the processes we need to follow in our meetings. These preliminary meetings should be "fact finding". There will be time for motions to change at a later date.
There was a discussion as to holding local elections in November instead of May, to align with Federal elections. Should we be concerned with the quality or quantity of voters. Jamestown runs consistent "off-year" elections. We could get a report of numbers of voters participating in only local as compared to those linked to Federal elections.
Section 202 - There was discussion of the portion that states - "No member of the Town Council shall be eligible to accept any other local Town office during his tenure on the Town Council or a paid appointive local Town office for a period of one year thereafter". It seems to be in connection to the "revolving door" policy in other areas of government. The thought was that it should be left in. It might be a question for the Ethics Commission.
Section 203 - The compensation of the Council members should be set in the agenda of the Financial Town Meeting as part of the budget. Could it be amended or changed at a special Financial Town Meeting?
Section 204 - A discussion of whether it is the best idea, as is the custom, that the "highest vote getter" of the majority party is voted on by the Council members, to be the Council President. The consensus was in the affirmative.
Section 206 - Does this section conflict with the direction of the open meetings rules and regulations?
Section 209 - The phrase should be adjusted to read "on any matter which will directly, or indirectly, bring personal or monetary benefit to the member".
Section 210 - The phrasing could be changed to read "except for the purpose of inquiries or investigations" instead of "...and investigations". It was suggested that we use the language of North Kingstown's Section 503:
"The Council or any of its members shall not direct or request the appointment of any person or his removal from office by the manager or by any of his subordinates, or in any manner take part in the appointment or removal of officers and employees in the administration of the service of the Town. Except for the purpose of inquiry, the Council and it's members shall deal with the administrative service solely through the manager, and neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any subordinates of the manager, either publicly or privately".
Chief Tighe has commented in the past that this section has never interfered with his duties.
Section 211 - Seems to be clear on it's own, as is. There was a reference made to similar wording in the North Kingstown Charter revisions Section 305.
Section 212 - Vacancies - Should the vacancy occurring, from whatever circumstances, be filled from a member of the same party as the person who is no longer an active participant or shall the next highest "vote getter" for Council at the last election be appointed by the Council to fill the vacancy. The general belief was that it was fine the way it was written.
Since the library building was closing, a motion was made and seconded that we adjourn. It was so voted. We adjourned at 9:00 pm.
Our next meeting will be Thursday, October 25, at the Police Station Conference Room.
Nancy L. Mason
C.R.C. - secretary