The Crestwood Charter Commission recently completed its review of the City Charter and will present proposed changes to the Board of Aldermen next week.
The Board of Aldermen will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, at City Hall, 1 Det-jen Drive.
Charter Commission members voted June 21 to present three amendments to the City Charter, which include removing term limits for the members of the Board of Aldermen, adding a censure provision for elected officials, lowering the number of signatures needed for a initiative and referendum petitions and recall elections and changing the wording on several items that either clarify or update the City Charter to current or common practice.
The City Charter, approved by voters Nov. 7, 1995, states, “From time to time, but not less than every 10 years, the mayor and Board of Aldermen shall provide for a Charter Review Committee to consider whether any amendments to this charter are appropriate.”
The Charter Commission, which has been meeting since mid-February, has up to 12 months to complete its work and submit any proposed amendments it deems necessary to the Board of Aldermen, according to the charter.
“The Board of Aldermen shall by ordinance submit such proposed amendments to the voters at the next general election,” the charter states.
The next general election is Nov. 8. Voters would have to approve the amendments for the changes to be effective.
One of the amendments approved by the Charter Commission would eliminate term limits for members of the Board of Alder-men. Under the charter, aldermen are limited to serving three consecutive three-year terms, not including time served to complete an expired term. As proposed, the term-limit provision for the mayoral post would remain unchanged.
The Charter Commission voted 6-1, with Pat Kapsar opposed, to recommend changing the charter to state, “There shall be no limit to the numbers of terms to which an alderman, including current aldermen, can be elected.”
Kapsar said she supported keeping the term limits in the charter for two reasons.
“One personally is I’m in favor of term limits. So from a personal standpoint I voted in favor of it (keeping the term limits) and second of all, even though you can always put it before the people, the city of Crestwood did vote 10 years ago and took a very positive stand for term limits, and basically those are the two reasons,” she said.
The proposed second amendment would add a censure provision for elected officials to the City Charter as an alternative to dismissal from office as a penalty for violations of charter provisions.
The Charter Commission voted 5-2, with Kapsar and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe opposed, to recommend changing the charter so that members of the Board of Alder-men and the mayor “shall be subject to either censure or forfeiture of office for violating any prohibition of this charter.”
The charter currently states that members of the Board of Aldermen and the mayor are subject to forfeiture of office if they violate any provision of the charter.
“I am really against censure and the reason I am against censure is there is nothing that defines what censure is,” Kapsar said.
Commission member David Brophy said, “… I think the lack of a specific definition is to allow it to be broadly used instead of forcing the removal of an officeholder simply for a simple violation of the charter, which could be done. I think censure allows the safety valve, rather than taking the drastic action of removing someone from office for a simple violation.”
“You could take the other side of that …,” Kapsar said. “… In a situation where you have a divisive Board of Aldermen, it could be an ugly thing, an ugly tool to use, and I just don’t think it’s necessary … You violate the charter or you don’t violate the charter and that’s why I have a problem with censure because censure gives you the impression that there’s something out there in between, and we don’t spell that out.”
Commission member Rich Bland said, “… I don’t think it’s so much as you do or you don’t violate the charter, I think what it’s doing is just offering another alternative in the event the charter is violated.”
“I’m battling with this because after sitting on the board, I cannot imagine as a board member voting a forfeiture of office because that alderman was elected by the people of the city, and I can’t imagine giving the aldermen the only choice they have if someone violates the charter is to go against the will of the people who put the aldermen in the office to begin with,” said commission member Bernie Alexander, a former Ward 3 alderman.
The Charter Commission also voted not to add a censure provision to the personal financial interest section, which states, “Any city official or employee who willfully conceals such a substantial financial interest or willfully violates the requirements of this section … shall forfeit his or her office or position.”
This section will remain as it currently is written in the City Charter.
The third amendment will include the Charter Commission’s proposal to reduce the percentage of signatures needed for initiative and petition referendums and re-call elections.
The commission recommended reducing the number of signatures required for an initiative and referendum from 12 percent to 8 percent of registered voters and reducing the percentage of signatures needed for a recall of the mayor from 20 percent to 15 percent of voters registered to vote at the last municipal election.
The Charter Commission initially discussed changing the initiative and referendum petition requirement from 12 percent to 6 percent, but eventually decided on 8 percent.
Commission members discussed that 9,375 voters were registered to vote in the city of Crestwood in the April election.
Petitioners now need 12 percent, or 1,125 signatures to qualify. The 6 percent re-quirement would equal 563 required signatures, and the 8 percent requirement would translate to 750 signatures required for initiative and referendum petitions.
“Six percent of 9,375 is — 563 signatures would be required to put an initiative or referendum on the ballot, and I think that’s sufficient,” Brophy said. “Five-hundred-and-sixty-three signatures is not a small hurdle, and is in harmony with the percentages that other levels of government require. I’m open to other suggestions, but I think 6 percent is reasonable.”
A couple of commission members said they believed that 6 percent would be too few signatures, so the commission settled on 8 percent, approving the proposal 7-0.
The panel voted 7-0 in favor of reducing the required signatures for a recall of the mayor from 20 percent to 15 percent.
The third amendment also will include several changes to the City Charter that the commission members unofficially referred to as “housekeeping” items that are considered minor. These changes include updates that are necessary to amend the charter, changes that will only add definition and not actually have an effect on the charter, and changes that update the charter to reflect current practice or allow an up-date to common practice to occur.
Also included in this amendment is a change to the section regarding the charter review committee, so that it would state, “From time to time, and at least once during each 10 years, the mayor and Board of Al-dermen shall provide for a Charter Review Committee to consider whether any amendments to this charter are appropriate.”