Charter Revision Commission
February 10, 2010
Commission Members Present: Commissioners Dave Balthazar, Julie Ciucias, Terry Concannon, Melissa Engel, and John Tuttle
Also Present: Town Manager Jeffrey O’Keefe and Town Clerk Sandi Wieleba
Meeting Called to Order
The organizational meeting of the Charter Revision Commission was called to order at 3:00 p.m. by Town Clerk Sandi Wieleba.
Swearing in of Commission Members
Town Clerk Sandi Wieleba administered the swearing-in of appointed Commission members.
Election of Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson
Motion: Commissioner Tuttle made a motion to elect Commissioner Concannon as Chairperson of the Charter Revision Commission. Commissioner Engel seconded the motion and all members voted in favor.
Motion: Commissioner Engel made a motion to elect Commissioner Ciucias as Vice-Chairperson of the Charter Revision Commission. Commissioner Tuttle seconded the motion and all voted in favor.
Receipt of Materials
Town Clerk Sandi Wieleba distributed binders containing copies of the current Charter, the Commission’s charge and some background information. Chairperson Concannon provided additional handouts illustrating towns with similar forms of government and population. Town Manager O’Keefe also provided a chart with comparative analysis from other towns with similar charges. A chart put together by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) was distributed which identified towns with four-year terms for their members serving on the Town Council. He explained that he and the town clerk would perform any research needed by this Commission.
Discussion Regarding a Public Hearing
Chairperson Concannon confirmed that the Commission needed to hold a public hearing to solicit input from the public before the Charter Revision Commission may begin work on their charge. The general consensus of the group was to hold a public hearing on March 1st at 7:00 p.m. at the Middle School in the Library/Media room.
Copies of the charge will be posted on the towns’ webpage and be available in the Town Clerk’s Office and also at the meeting. The legal notice will appear in the Hartford Courant and Middletown Press as well as a press release will be available in the Rivereast.
Chairperson Concannon wished to have a three (3) minute limit on public comment and a signup sheet for individuals that wished to speak. She reviewed the purpose of this public hearing was to solicit the public’s input.
The public hearing will be audio taped and minutes will be available on the town’s webpage and Face book.
Commissioner Tuttle wished for the meeting to be informal so that the Commission could obtain feedback from the public and hoped for a good turnout.
Discussion Regarding Future Meetings
The Commission discussed whether it needed to meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It was decided that a weekly basis would be best. Meetings were scheduled for Thursday, at 10:00 a.m. and will include a few evening meetings in order to allow the public to attend if they wished. There is no requirement for public comment at these meetings. The next meeting prior to the public hearing will be Thursday, February 25th at 9:00 a.m. in the Eaton Smith Meeting Room. A schedule of the meetings will be posted on the town’s web page as well as on East Hampton’s Face book page as soon as the Commission approves it.
Discussion Defining the Charge of the Commission
The Commission reviewed their charge which was established by the Town Council and requested a timeline be drafted in order to effectively address each issue in a timely manner. Below is the list comprised by the Town Council:
1. Review the method of the election of Town Council members (Section 2.1) of the Town Charter to consider changing to four (4) years overlapping staggered terms.
2. Review (Section 2.2) to consider that the “organizational meeting” may be conducted at the next regularly scheduled Town Council meeting rather than the next day after the election. Consider adding a provision for a Vice-Chairman.
3. Review (Section 3.1) to consider adding language that not only the Town Manager, but the Public Works Director, The Chief of Police and the Town Emergency Management Director must live in Town or within some acceptable radius of the Town. Review State statute to insure language regarding appointment of Town Manager conforms to State Statutes.
4. Review the provisions of the Town Charter regarding the adoption of the annual budget. A.) Revise language to the state statute requirement that budget must go to a referendum. B.) Consider adding a threshold amount for public easements that would not require a town meeting and C.) Consider adding language that after two failed budget referendums the Town Council shall adopt the budget. Combine zoning commission and town plan commission into Planning & Zoning Commission.
5. Review the provisions (Section 4.3) of the Town Charter regarding Petition for Enactment of Ordinance. Can the language be written in a fashion that is easier to understand?
6. Review the provisions of the Town Charter (Section 5.2 – General Powers and Duties of the Board of Finance) to clarify the section that indicates the Board of Finance shall review and make recommendations regarding all requests for additional appropriations to be submitted to the council. Additionally, consider allowing the Town Council the power to set the Town Meeting date or Referendum for the budget at a regularly scheduled council meeting rather than at a “special meeting”.
7. Review and eliminate Section 6.2 from the Town of East Hampton Town Charter as it is no longer needed.
8. Review the provisions of (Section 6.4 – Vacancies in Elective Office) to consider adding language that the position being vacated must be filled from the same elected party in which it was vacated.
9. Modify (Section 6.7 – Effective Date) to conform to the new Charter Amended Effective dates.
Commissioner Balthazar asked for an explanation as to how these particular charges were identified for the Commission to review. Commissioner Tuttle explained that the Commission needed a charge in order to provide guidance on sections that needed to be reviewed. The list was put together by the Town Council and approved at their council meeting. Commissioner Engel explained that the Council was interested in exploring staggered terms and the method for passing a budget. Vice-Chairperson Ciucias stated that she came up with the same items identified by the Town Council for review by this Commission when she reviewed the Charter on her own.
Vice-Chairperson Ciucias asked if there was any State Statute as to when a town must review its charter. Chairperson Concannon stated that it was not by State Statute, but was dictated by each town’s charter.
Chairperson Concannon also pointed out that she wanted the Town Charter to be gender neutral. She also wanted to confirm that all the items discussed by the Town Council were included in this list and that none were omitted.
Town Manager O’Keefe confirmed that this was the final adopted resolution with a complete list of the items to be reviewed by the Charter Revision Commission.
Commissioner Tuttle asked if there should be a notation on removing appointees from Boards and Commission. The charter identifies the method for appointment of individuals to Boards and Commissions, but not the removal of members.
Town Manager O’Keefe reminded the Commissioners that they could not add items to the original charge (Resolution) and that it could not be changed since it was approved by the Council. However, they could make further recommendations in their final report.
Chairperson Concannon requested:
Additional information is provided to the Commission from the Town of Avon concerning the number of times a budget needs to be voted on before it is passed.
The reason as to why the Town of Portland’s Charter Revision recommendations were not approved by the Town Council nor voted on by the public.
Additional information as to the method used by the Town of Marlborough to pass a budget.
Commissioner Tuttle asked:
How often other towns review their Charters. He wanted to see how technology effected the residency requirements placed on Town Managers and whether this was one reason to update older charters.
The best method for the Commission to approach each issue.
Members from the Commission asked how to handle emails received from the public addressed to their personal email addresses. It was agreed emails be forwarded to the Town Clerk and the Town Manager’s Office so it can be included in the meeting packets.
The meeting was adjourned until February 25th at 9:00 a.m. in the Eaton Smith Meeting Room.
Adjournment: Motion to adjourn by Commissioner Engel seconded by Commissioner Tuttle at 4:09 p.m.
Sandra M. Wieleba, Town Clerk