Charter amendments make up multiple ballot questions for city voters [Sample ballot included]

Ballots have been distributed to city and county voters.

In the county, voters will get ballots with the economic development levy question. In Belt, the ballots will include the mayor’s race and one ward election. Cascade has two wards on the ballot.

City voters will be electing a mayor, two City Commissioners and Neighborhood Council members. They’re also voting to decide whether backyard hens should be allowed in the limits, the economic development levy and questions on the city charter.

Urban chicken forum Thursday; proposed ordinance updated

(More information is below the sample ballot images)

sample ballot-page-001sample ballot-page-002

As a reminder, Fred Burow has dropped out of the race, but his name will still appear on the ballot. Four names are listed for the commission seats and voters can choose two.

City ballots in the mail this week

Many of the proposed charter changes are to correct typographic errors, remove inconsistencies and outdated provisions.

Chickens headed to November ballot, along with charter updates

The proposed changes are as follows:

Typographical changes

The first category includes typographical changes for clarification and includes changes to Article II, Section 3, Article III, Section 3 and Article VII, Section 2.

Provisions regarding vacancies

The second category of proposed changes includes an expansion of the circumstances under Article IV, by which a vacancy within the City Commission may exist. These changes will be consistent with Montana statute dealing with Public Officers under Mont. Code Ann. Title 2, Chapter 16, Part 5. The changes include the addition of the following reasons for vacancy of public office into the provisions of Article IV, Section 2: violation of official  duties or the City Code of Ethics, Title 2, Chapter 52, while serving on the commission; absence from more than one-third of the regular meetings in a calendar year without a health or medical excuse, inability to fulfill the duties of the office as a result of physical illness or mental disorder, or neglecting or refusing to discharge the commissioner or mayor’s duties.

Adding these provisions will make the charter more consistent with Montana statutory provisions, along with OCCGF vacancy provisions for members of other city boards and commissions, according to city staff.

Provisions related to administrative duties

The third category of changes includes those dealing with respective duties of the City Commission and City Manager, and involves proposed revisions to Article II, Section 2(d) and Article VI, Section 4.

In Article II, Section 2(d), the City Commission’s “Duties and Responsibilities” include adopting “as necessary an administrative and personnel code and/or policies.” That provision is inconsistent with a number of other charter provisions.

Article VI, Section 4, provides that the “city manager shall be the chief administrative and executive officer of the city” and shall “d) Administer the affairs of the city, e) Direct, organize, supervise, and administer all departments, divisions, agencies, bureaus, and the offices of the city…and l) Appoint and be administratively responsible for all city employees, including their suspension or removal.”

Additionally Article II, Section 3 of the charter states, “Except for the purpose of inquiry, or investigation, the City Commission shall be involved with administrative and management operations solely through the city manager.”

Finally, Article III, Section 5, provides that “administrative departments, divisions, bureaus, agencies, offices, and other administrative entities shall be subject to the control and supervision of the city manager.”

The provision requiring the City Commission to adopt administrative and personnel codes and/or policies is inconsistent with these other provisions of the charter and creates additional inefficiency in city processes. Thus the proposed change is to remove the adoption of administrative and personnel code and/or policies from the duties of the commission and insert it into the provisions outlining the duties of the city manager.

Since the charter gives broad discretion and responsibility to the city manager regarding employee administration, staff believes it’s appropriate for the city manager to have the authority to approve and adopt personnel policies developed by staff, according to their July report.

References to Municipal Court

As Article V of the charter currently exists, it provides that Great Falls shall have a “City Court.” Montana city courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They are not courts of record, and sitting judges are not required to be licensed attorneys. Municipal courts are required to be courts of record, and sitting judges must meet the same qualifications as district court judges.

Currently, Great Falls has an operating municipal, not city, court. It is a court of record. The current Municipal Court Judge is Montana State Bar licensed attorney, as was the prior Judge. The City Commission, by Resolution No. 10095, has also set the Municipal Judge’s salary as a percentage of Montana District Court judges’ salaries. By removing “city,” and replacing with “municipal,” the charter will thereby accurately reflect the current status of the Great Falls Municipal Court.

“Given the volume and complexity of the current court calendar, it is appropriate to recognize the status of the court in the charter,” according to the staff report.

Neighborhood Councils

Under the current charter language in Article VII, Section 4 neighborhood councils are required to organize officer appointments within 30 days of the election, most of which, except special elections, occur in November. It’s an impractical requirement since the 30 days expires before they’re even sworn in in January. The proposed charter language would allow for the time necessary to have the members properly placed in their positions. Additional proposed changes are for the identification and replacement of officers.

A typographical change was also corrected in this Article VII, Section 4(e) and the “Sunset Provision and City Liability” provision in (g) is proposed to be removed.

If the charter updates are approved, the effective date would be changed to Nov. 7, 2017.

Transitional provisions listed in Article IX have already expired and the city has already transitioned to a commission-manager form of government. Since the charter itself dictates that those provisions should not be published as a regular part of the charter they will not be included in the revised version of the charter. They were set to be removed years ago, but had been erroneously retained in the published versions of the charter, according to city staff.