Elimination of entire services for Crestwood may be future topic for charter panel

Charter Review Committee last convened in 2005

By Kari Williams

When the Crestwood Charter Review Committee next convenes, it could discuss whether the Board of Aldermen should have the authority to vote if entire services are eliminated.

In October, City Administrator Mark Sime announced Crestwood’s animal-control position will be eliminated at the end of the year.

Aldermen voted 7-1 Nov. 26 to approve the final reading of an ordinance repealing Chapter 6 of the city’s municipal code, which required the animal-control position, and replace it with new language that aligns to St. Louis County’s criteria for animal control. Ward 4 Alderman Dan Tennessen was opposed.

At that meeting, Ward 2 Alderman Mary Stadter made a motion to amend the City Charter, proposing to give the board authority to vote “any time a service provided by the city is being eliminated.” Tennessen seconded Stadter’s motion.

However, City Attorney Lisa Stump suggested the board not recognize Stadter’s motion and instead put the item on its next agenda. At the board’s Dec. 10 meeting, Stadter said she had concerns about one person having the responsibility to eliminate personnel that also eliminates an entire service.

“No disrespect at all to Mr. Sime, it could be the pope,” she said. “But if it’s one person, that worries me when an entire service that the city is expecting goes away.”

Mayor Jeff Schlink said with the position not filled after 2013, animal-control duties will be designated to the public services director and then carried out by St. Louis County.

“I agree that it’s not a one to one. You can’t line them up perfectly, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re eliminating that service, but I understand why you used that language …,” he said.

Stadter said she agrees the animal-control service is not being eliminated but it is being changed “quite a bit.”

“My concern though is this — we could fall into this same set of circumstances for something that doesn’t necessarily have a logical or a county backup that’s going to come in and do it for us,” Stadter said. “And in that case, maybe (we could do) something as simple as modifying the (charter) language.”

Ward 2 Alderman Tim Trueblood noted that when the city’s information technology, or IT, employee left, that service was gone, though the board voted last week to hire Throttlenet as its IT service provider.

“(That service has) been outsourced. (The) city administrator had a choice. He could replace it or outsource it,” Trueblood said. “Would we as a board then want to say, ‘No. You’ve got to hire somebody else for that job?’ I don’t think we want to go there.”

Additionally, Tennessen said the city created a budget without a finance officer, “taking great trust in the city administrator” that “everything’s tidy.”

“Further, we don’t have an IT department, but we’ve made a decision to hire. We’ve also made a decision to bring in the e-web service,” Tennessen said, “and I think these are good decisions, but we haven’t seen it work and we don’t have a web content manager. So we’ve essentially impacted three departments in the last couple of months …”

Ward 1 Alderman Darryl Wallach said when the city’s animal-control position was created in 1979, aldermen voted for it and approved the appointment of the individual for that position.

“So my concern is the board made a position back in 1979 for this new position to be created. It wasn’t the city administrator. It was the board that created this position and rightfully so,” he said. “And if a certain service is taken away, I think (the) board needs (to) take that same position in (the) future for any position that’s created because of an ordinance that’s created by the Board of Aldermen.”

But Trueblood said the city did not have a charter at that time to keep a “separation of the powers of the governancy.”

“I’m afraid what we’re doing is going to return us to the state of Crestwood as a governance as it was prior to going to (a) city-administrator-type of government …,” he said. “It was total chaos and it became patronage. While I understand your concern for losing power, there’s a reason for that separation for us as aldermen.”

Resident Ed Lang, who served on the original Charter Commission, told the board one of the aspects of governance the commission wanted to eliminate was “the patronage that was occurring through the Board of Aldermen.”

“When we have an administrative type of government, that administrator has to have the ability to be able to hire (and) fire as he sees fit. And that’s the way it’s supposed to work …,” he said. “You can’t have this thing run by a committee.”

Even if a particular service that could be eliminated consists of one person, Lang said if the city administrator determines the service is not needed, the board should not vote on it.

“That’s his job to make that decision …,” he said. “He should make that decision and the board should stand by him.”

Schlink said the city is a couple years away from convening a Charter Review Committee and it might be better for a panel to look at the issue in the context of the entire document. At that time, according to Schlink, it can be decided whether or not the charter should be modified.

After hearing Lang and resident David Brophy, who served on the Charter Review Committee in 2005, speak, Stadter said she is OK with waiting until the review committee meets to discuss the topic again.

“They put a lot of time and effort and thought process behind this, and that’s what we need to keep our city running smoothly,” Stadter said.

The City Charter, first approved by voters on 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 city last convened a Charter Review Committee in February 2005.