• July 26, 2014

Cove council mulls proposed charter changes

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Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 11:08 pm

COPPERAS COVE — Several proposed city charter changes may appear on the ballot in November, including modifications to the way officials fill city council vacancies.

Edward “Mark” Payne, a charter review committee member, presented the panel’s recommended changes to council members at their June 3 meeting.

Committee members reviewed 10 sections in 24 days, but felt they had limited time to thoroughly review the charter because of limited communication with the city attorney and “time constraints pressed upon them” by the council, Payne said.

The committee proposed changing the appointment process for city council or mayoral vacancies by nixing its current special elections requirements.

Under the proposed changes, if a council or mayoral vacancy occurs within 120 days of a general election — usually in November — then the spot would be filled by placing the vacant seat on the ballot for the general election for the remainder of the position’s unexpired term.

If the vacancy appears after the 120-day time period, the spot would be filled by the city council by a two-thirds vote.

That means a council member could resign one day after being elected, and the remaining council members would fill the vacant council position by a two-thirds vote.

Once filled, the council seat would then go up for re-election the following year.

The city council is made up of seven members who each serve three-year terms.

Currently, the city charter states that vacant council or mayoral positions will be filled by a special election for the remainder of the term. The charter stipulates that if a newly appointed member fills a vacant position for more than two years, he can only run for re-election once.

Proposed changes also included clarifying that when the mayor is absent, the mayor pro tem will act in his stead and retain his right to vote during meetings. In a document presented to the council June 3, charter committee members said the reasoning behind the proposed change in policy was to save taxpayers money.

Members who opposed the change in the document said special election money was already in the current city budget and city-appointed council members had a better likelihood of winning the subsequent general election because of their incumbent status and name recognition.

This could lead to the council becoming inundated with favoritism and special interest groups, the document said. The council will finalize the proposed changes at a public hearing before appearing on the November ballot.

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