Voters to consider amendments to Crestwood charter on April 4

By MIKE ANTHONY

Crestwood voters will consider four amendments to the City Charter on Tuesday, April 4.

The Board of Aldermen voted last week to place the four amendments on the ballot. In separate votes at the more-than-six-hour meeting, al-dermen voted 6-0 to adopt four ordinances placing the charter amendments on the ballot. Ward 3 Alderman Jerry Miguel abstained on the final vote for each ordinance, while Ward 3 Alderman Don Maddox was absent from the Jan. 10 meeting.

The four amendments are:

• Proposition 1 — This proposed amendment includes several changes to the charter that Charter Review Committee members considered minor, unofficially referring to them as “housekeeping” items.

• Proposition 2 — This proposed amendment would remove term limits for aldermen. Under the current charter, aldermen are limited to serving three consecutive three-year terms, not including time served to complete an expired term. The term-limit provision for the mayoral post would remain in effect.

• Proposition 3 — This proposed amendment would add to the charter a censure provision for elected officials as an alternative to dismissal from office as a penalty for violations of charter provisions.

• Proposition 4 — This proposed amendment would reduce the number of signatures required for initiative and referendum petitions from 12 percent to 8 percent of registered voters and would reduce the percentage of signatures needed for a re-call of the mayor or an alderman from 20 percent to 15 percent of registered voters.

The Charter Review Committee, which began meeting in February, recommended three amendments to the charter. The proposed amendment with “housekeeping” items originally included the provision to reduce the number of signatures needed for initiative and referendum petitions and recall elections. But Mayor Roy Robinson said he believed the provision to reduce the number of signatures needed for initiative and referendum petitions and recall elections should be placed before voters as a separate amendment because he considered the proposal a “major change.”

The committee had up to 12 months to complete its work and submit any proposed amendments it deemed necessary to the Board of Aldermen.

“The Board of Aldermen shall by ordinance submit such proposed amendments to the voters at the next general election,” the charter states.

Resident Martha Duchild previously had questioned whether the charter panel was legally constituted under the provisions of the City Charter and had voiced her concerns about the amendments proposed by the panel. At the Jan. 10 meeting, she reiterated her concerns.

Noting she had spoke on the same topic at the last board meeting, Duchild said, “I provided ample reasons why you should vote no on the charter ordinances. Most of the changes the commission proposed were substantive changes which had no public support. From needlessly stripping the city clerk of civil service protection, to adding confusion to the mayor’s tie-breaking authority, to proposing censure without any objective procedures for its application, to suggesting removal of term limits, the Charter Commission has proposed amendments which add no value to the charter and may in some cases cause harm.

“These ordinances are like any others and as elected representatives, you have the right to vote no and to preserve what is already a well-written charter in need of little modification. I respectfully ask that you do so,” she said.

Ward 1 Alderman Richard LaBore later asked City Attorney Rob Golterman, “Your counsel to this board as the city’s attorney, do I understand you correctly, the charter requires us to pass these through as a simple ministerial act …?”

Golterman said, “That is my opinion.”

LaBore said, “Thank you. It is never — let me rephrase it, it is rarely, rarely wise to go against the city attorney’s advice.”

After further comments by Duchild, Gol-terman said to her, “With all due respect, I took a substantial amount of time and sent you two very detailed e-mails with my in-terpretation and the basis in the charter upon which I have formed my belief. I understand you’re not satisfied with that. I respect that. OK? I have done my job. It’s now the board’s time to do its job. I am not in a position to spend 40 or 50 hours culling every case in the United States of America to decide whether or not there is something on point with respect to this issue. There will not be.

“At the end of the day, the voters, as is contemplated by the charter with respect to any amendment proposals, the voters will make the decision — whether it comes from a petition from citizens, from a Charter Commission put together similar to the one that we put together in 1994 or whether it comes from the Charter Review Committee. I’ve done my best to explain it to you. I understand you don’t agree with me. I respect that, but there’s really nothing more to be said on the topic,” he said.

Robinson later noted he disagreed with the city attorney, saying, “… If I was an alderman and I didn’t like it, I’d vote no. If I liked it, I’d vote yes — period. And as mayor, if I don’t like it, I won’t sign it, and the board has the opportunity to override that. So I mean, I’m not saying I’m going to do that. I’m just telling you that’s my feelings. My feelings are is that everybody has the right to do what they want to do. I know where he’s coming from because he and I have argued about it. But the thing about it is, the city attorney, as Dr. LaBore says, is the one that’s hired to provide us with the legal advice and … He gives us his best advice. If we’re foolish enough or want to be foolish enough not to follow his advice, then what’s that we can do …”

Miguel later said, “I really have struggled with this, especially the last few days. What has happened is that a committee was assigned by one individual to propose amendments to the charter and this is the only situation that I can think of where we are mandated to vote for an ordinance to accept the recommendations of that committee … If this is the way the process is set up, I feel that the process leaves something to be desired and, no, I’m sorry I can’t come up with a solution right on the spot, but I’m really troubled by some of the amendments that have been proposed.

“With the change in the language, for example, it’s possible that a Charter Com-mission be called every year. It’s possible that every time there is a mayoral election, we could a have a Charter Committee called. I really don’t feel that’s the way it’s intended …,” he added.