Meeting twice a month in the Railroad Depot Room of City Hall committee members have 120 days to review the city charter that dictates how the city is governed. Serving in an advisory capacity, committee members will submit a list of recommended charter changes to the City Commission.
SProposed charter amendments will then be subject to approval by City Commission before appearing on a ballot for voter approval.
Each city commissioner appointed two members, with the mayor appointing one.
Art Woodruff appointed James Davis and Chris McLeod; Velma Williams appointed Edward Blacksheare and Dorothea Fogle; Randy Jones appointed Robert Kinney and Dennis Stewart; and Jack Bridges appointed Stephen Coover and Otto Garrett while Mayor Linda Kuhn appointed Jason Brodeur.
At the April 25 meeting, Assistant City Attorney Ken McIntosh served as temporary chairman, and guided the members through the process of electing chairpersons and establishing a tentative meeting schedule.
City Manager Sherman Yehl and City Clerk Jan Dougherty were also present, as they were May 3.
The members elected attorney Steven Coover to serve as chairman and James Davis to serve as vice chairman.
McIntosh told committee members they are expected to adhere to the Government in the Sunshine laws and are only allowed to discuss the charter review process among themselves during public meetings.
Committee members were provided a copy of Sanford’s city charter and copies of charters enacted by other cities to use as points of comparison.
On May 3, committee members gathered again. Going around the table, Coover asked each committee member to state the issues they felt should be addressed. Taking into consideration items included in a memo sent by the city manager, Coover mentioned term limits for elected officials, moving the election date, ethics provisions and the pay scale for the mayor and city commissioners.
Robert Kinney asked about “moral turpitude,” a somewhat vague term that refers to conduct considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals.
“That could be a lot of things,” he said, before suggesting a clearer definition be devised.
Jason Brodeur mentioned the lack of financial information contained in the city charter and suggested more expansive framework in terms of how the city manages its finances.
Chris McLeod addressed the need to determine a regular schedule for future charter reviews, deciding if those should occur every three, five or seven years.
In regard to the ethics clause, McLeod said, “The simpler things are, the better. The more verbose we get, the more confusing it is.”
Stewart said he wants to address how city commission candidates are placed on the ballot. He would like to include a provision that allows candidates to get on the ballot by way of petition as an alternative to paying a qualifying fee. He believes this would open the political process to more candidates.
Stewart also thinks the city charter should define more clearly the chain of command in the event of a crisis preventing both the mayor and the vice mayor from assuming their leadership roles. He also wants to address the city’s relationships and oversight of the Sanford Airport Authority and Sanford Housing Authority.
Garrett mentioned term limits, city oversight for the Airport Authority and residency requirements for city commissioners as items to be addressed.
Brodeur then informed committee members of legislation passed by state legislators earlier in the day that now requires elected officials to reside in the districts they serve.
Blacksheare wants to examine the advantages and disadvantages of changing the date when city elections are held.
One school of thought suggests that holding city elections in March allows residents to focus solely on matters of interest to the city. The other suggests city elections held on the same day as primary or general elections produces a greater voter turnout, but does so at the risk of allowing state and national matters to overshadow local issues.
In regard to redistricting, Blacksheare requested from Ken McIntosh a historical perspective on districting in Sanford, which McIntosh will provide at next meeting.
Davis said his primary focus would be redistricting. Given that federal law allows only the most recent official U.S. Census data (in this case 2000 data) to be used when redistricting, revisiting this issue may prove difficult.
Davis posed the question: “How can we use the charter to address District 2 in the 2008 election?”
He expressed his opinion that recent redistricting efforts resulted in District 2 no longer being a true minority-majority district — a provision designed to ensure minority representation.
“How can we use the charter to guarantee black representation on the committee, at least until we are able to redistrict in 2010?” Davis asked, in reference to census data to be complied in 2010 and released in 2011.
Member Dorothea Fogle did not attend Thursday’s meeting.
Members were then joined by Kuhn and Commissioners Williams, Woodruff and Bridges.
The charter review process allows for suggestions to be made by city commissioners and the city manager, but does not mandate committee members must address the items suggested to them.
The charter review process will include be three public hearings, during which members of the public will be allowed to address committee members.
The first public hearing will take place May 17, at 7 p.m., inside City Commission Chambers.
When Coover read to commissioners the list of items members plan to address, the mayor said, “I think you’ve come up with a comprehensive list. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve brought up. I’m impressed.”
Woodruff said he was more interested in hearing what the committee members and citizens wanted addressed than he was in suggesting to committee members what he felt needed to be addressed.
Williams expressed her opinion that it was imperative to address redistricting.
“I feel very strongly about that,” she said.
Referring to the moral turpitude clause, Bridges said there is currently no charter provision preventing a convicted felon from remaining in public office or a city employee convicted of a felony from remaining in the city’s employ.
“Moral Turpitude has existed for a thousand years,” he said. “I’ve practiced law for 34 years and I still don’t know what it means.”
After the May 17 public hearing, the next Charter Review Commission meeting will take place on May 31. Future meetings will occur on the second and fourth Thursdays in June and July. The final meeting is scheduled to take place on Aug. 9.
All meetings are to be recorded, with minutes taken by a deputy of the city clerk’s office. Agenda information and recording of previous meetings will be posted at the city Web site.