Appointments and Ordinances Committee continues discussion on Greenfield charter changes

Staff Writer
Published: 9/15/2021 5:11:18 PM

GREENFIELD — The Appointments and Ordinances Committee continued its discussion Tuesday evening on the proposed charter changes.

While a few changes proposed by the now-disbanded Charter Review Committee were forwarded to City Council for consideration, there was disagreement among councilors as to what the procedure is at this stage of the review process.

According to Article 8 of the city charter, a periodic review of the charter happens every year ending in zero. In June 2020, seven members — City Council Vice President Sheila Gilmour, Precinct 7 Councilor Otis Wheeler and At-Large Councilor Christine Forgey, as well as residents David Singer, Allen Wood, John Lunt and Erin Donnelley Drake — were appointed to the Charter Review Committee.

Wheeler and Forgey were invited to speak at Tuesday evening’s Appointments and Ordinances Committee as representatives of the Charter Review Committee to provide context for discussions held during those meetings.

“The procedure was … that a report would be given to City Council, and it would be up to individual city councilors to propose, or decline to propose, individual amendments,” began Wheeler, relaying his understanding of what was discussed during the Charter Review Committee.

Forgey, however, had a different interpretation of the conversations that took place during the Charter Review Committee meetings.

“The charter committee worked to address some of the issues, to decide based on public input and deliberation, what we wanted to have included in the charter report,” Forgey told the Appointments and Ordinances Committee, noting some of those changes were language or housekeeping issues, while others required more discussion. “The charter commission made its recommendation. … The council accepted the charter review, then it was sent to A&O so A&O could make recommendations as to what was contained in the report.”

From there, proposed changes or recommendations could be sent for legal review, if necessary, and then to full council for deliberation.

“I think if there’s something in there that people have a specific interest in and the report didn’t address it correctly, or if it’s asking for a significant change to the charter, or if it’s stating we were not able to make a decision on that particular piece — then, I think, something like that would need a councilor to sponsor it,” Forgey added.

Appointments and Ordinances Committee member Gilmour, who served on the Charter Review Committee, agreed with Forgey.

Precinct 5 Councilor Tim Dolan, however, still had questions about the procedure being followed.

“I have never, in my time as a councilor, seen an ordinance change, let alone a charter change, come through without a councilor willing to speak for it and shepherd it through the process,” Dolan said.

Wheeler, too, argued that not having councilors sponsor individual charter changes, and instead having the Appointments and Ordinances Committee deal with it as one recommendation, is starting a conversation too big for the community to have.

“There is a reason for process,” he said, agreeing with Dolan. “It’s because the process requires certain notices given to the public. … If you skip one piece of the process, i.e. the act of officially proposing a charter change, so that it is sent to all councilors, it is part of the public record. If you skip that, you’re skipping all of the notice periods, the opportunity for all councilors to be aware this is being sponsored by you, and the opportunity for the community to be part of this conversation.”

Councilors didn’t appear to reach a consensus on the issue. Gilmour, who ran the meeting in Chair Dan Guin’s absence, suggested the committee go through the proposed changes as outlined on the agenda in the meantime.

“I think it is important for us to continue to review these recommendations and ask questions, so we know what we’re getting ourselves into when we make a recommendation,” she said.

The committee began with a discussion of Section 2-8, which proposed changing language in the charter so that a city auditor is elected or receives a “vote to appoint” by City Council, rather than the current language, which gives power to the City Council to appoint one. After a brief discussion, committee members supported leaving the language as it is currently written.

Committee members also discussed in depth language pertaining to the compensation of a mayor. In particular, they debated whether the minimum salary should be expressed in Section 3-1, Subsection C, and if so, at what rate.

Ultimately, it was agreed that more research was needed into what benchmark should be written into the charter. Currently, the charter states a minimum salary of $70,000 for the mayor.

“Maybe … we look to other communities and raise that,” commented Appointments and Ordinances Committee member and Precinct 1 Councilor Ed Jarvis. “To me, $70,000 is real low for what the mayor does.”

Other proposed changes discussed pertained to the role of an acting mayor. The Charter Review Committee proposed changing the current language — which states that a city officer or city employee should be designated as acting mayor in the event of an absence of 10 business days — to 10 to 15 business days.

After discussing the merits of increasing the length of time as opposed to keeping it as is, councilors agreed to adjourn the meeting and to continue the discussion at a later date. The Appointments and Ordinances Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 13, at 5:30 p.m.

Mary Byrne can be reached at Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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