Charter Review Committee – 19 Feb 2014 – Citizen Minutes

Charter Review Committee Meeting

Citizen Minutes

19 February 2014

Citizen Comments

Pam Chadbourne suggested that the city manager should be recused from the discussion of his duties and severance pay in order for the committee to engage in a free discussion.

Section 51 of the charter defines the city manager’s severance pay as “the balance of his salary for the current month and his salary for the next calendar month.”  The “staff” suggestion is to remove the language as it “could eventually make Littleton non-competitive with similarly situated cities that have more flexibility in negotiating severance benefits.”  Pam suggested rather than eliminating the requirement to add the words “not less than” to protect the citizens from malfeasance.    Interestingly enough, our current city manager was hired with the language limiting his severance pay.  However, the council provided him with a contract that exceeds the language of the charter.  When asked citizens were told that they have not violated the charter because it is “longevity” pay and not severance pay.   This after the mayor referred to it as severance pay.

Pam also referenced Section 55.  Staff has suggested adding that the city attorney can “provide legal advice to the City Manager and the administrative branch of the City government.”  The city attorney reports directly to the city council; not the city manager.  Pam believes the added language will lead to abuse at some point in time.  Pam also asked the committee to view the changes from the view-point of those impacted; the citizens.  Please keep recourses open for the citizens.

Approval of Minutes

Dr. Schiff clarified that the work of the committee in a work in progress and they have not come to an agreement.  Sally Parson, Chair, said he was correct.  The committee’s report to council states, “The Committee has finalized recommendations for Section 69-103 and Sections 10-48, 74 and 83.”  So have they come to an agreement or not?

Michael Penny, city manager, told the group that he would be willing to leave the meeting during the discussion of the charter regarding the city manager even though the changes did not come from him but others.  Penny reviewed the changes.  City Attorney, Ken Fellman, said he made the suggested changes.

Section 50 – Absence

Ken Fellman suggested that language be added to allow the city manager to designate someone other than the deputy city manager as acting city manager during the times that both the city manager and deputy city manager are out of town.  This is a “no-brainer,” said Fellman.

Section 51 – Removal; Severance Pay

This is the section Chadbourne referred to in her comments to the committee.  Fellman said there wasn’t a legal problem with the addition of the words “not less than” and Chadbourne’s recommendation was acceptable to him. He also wanted to add language of “termination without cause” because that is when severance pay is paid and he hated to pay out when a city manager is terminated for cause.  He was going to work on language to bring back to the committee.

Tom Wooten asked, wouldn’t all these matters be covered in the contract negotiated by the city manager and council?  Fellman said yes, except to the extent that the terms of the contract might be limited by the charter.   So today, if the city manager says he would like to have 6 months severance pay if he was fired without cause; my advice to the council would be you can’t do that.  The point of the Charter is to set the outside parameters and give the council some flexibility to negotiate as it believes appropriate.  (That may be true but, in Littleton, up until now our city managers have not had a contract and Michael Penny was hired knowing that contracts do not exist for city managers and severance pay was limited to no more than two months.  At his first review he was given a severance package worth 12 months of salary – council justified this by saying it was not severance pay but longevity pay and therefore not in contradiction with the Charter.  However, the mayor at the time, referred to it as severance pay several times during the meeting.)

Fellman said removing the defined severance pay would provide the city council with flexibility.

Norm Brown asked Penny how many applicants applied for the city manager’s job with the current language on severance pay in the charter.  Penny said he did not know but there were 5 on the short list.  Brown said there has not been a lack of applications – Littleton is a great place.  If there is not a clearly defined problem there is no reason to change the language.

Fellman said the “for cause” language would be important.

Kent Bagley was in favor of removing the severance pay language.  We are now in the 21st century; he saw the language as severely impacting the council.  Susan Thornton moved to remove the limiting language and motion passed with Brown the only dissenting vote.

Article VIII Boards, Commissions and Authorities (the word Authorities is an addition; recently the Riverfront Authority was given a new name (LIFT) and will be the urban renewal authority for Littleton.  The new Economic Development Plan has provided urban renewal, eminent domain, tax increment financing, incentives and other “tools” for the city manager’s use.)

Section 53 – General Provisions (for Boards, Commissions and Authorities)

One of the suggested changes was to change the “appointing authority” to the “council.”  Wooten asked if the council was the only appointing authority and Kristin Schledorn, deputy city attorney, said the council was the only appointing authority.  Wooten said the suggested change was narrowing the language to which Fellman suggested using “council or designee” rather than appointing authority.  Wooten said the current language already does that.

Section 54 – Appointment (of the city attorney)

Staff has suggested that the city attorney requirement of two years practicing law be made five.  Brian Vogt asked why have the requirement in the charter.  You could have a city manager that goes back to law school and that person would be qualified to be a municipal city attorney upon the completion of their degree.

Section 57 and 54 (Both of these sections deal with special counsel)

Section 54 states the appointment of a special counsel be made by the city council.  Section 57 also says that city council will determine their compensation. The suggested change would give the city attorney, along with the consultation of the city manager, the authority to hire the special counsel…..less bureaucracy.  The compensation would be determined by the city attorney at the time of employment rather than city council.  Penny said the current language creates a conflict in who hires the attorney so the language needs some correction.

Brown wanted some additional language to ensure that the legal advice provided by the city attorney to the city manager was never personal in nature.

Vogt asked about the hierarchy of responsibility if there is friction between the council and the city manager.  Fellman said the highest authority is the city council.  If the situation existed Fellman would talk to the mayor and try to help council and the city manager work through their differences.  Vogt said, “in that case eliminate the city manager” from Section 55.  That would remove “provide legal advice to the City Manager” and leave it “provide legal advice to the administrative branch of the city government.”

Steve Brainerd pointed out a legitimate issue – there’s a disconnect in the first sentence of Sec. 54 and the duties for the city attorney as stated in Sec. 55. He suggested that the two sections be paired up and define the type of legal advice the attorney is to provide.  Fellman did not see the overlap until now and will work on a modificaiton to bring back to the group.

Part III Sec. 59 Contracts and Conveyances

The language “all contracts in writing binding the city” be signed by the president of council be deleted as the language is “very limiting.”  Or, at a minimum give the city manager the authority to sign contracts or limit the type of contracts, size or dollar value the city manager can sign.

Schledorn said there are certain contracts that the city manager can sign.  Brown said that rather than trying to debate the dollar value Littleton Public Schools publishes a list of all expenditures for the public’s knowledge as a matter of policy.

Parsons suggested leaving the matter up to council – the group agreed.

Article XI. Fire, Police, and Health Services

Section 104 – Provision for Services

Current language requires the council to provide “health services for the preservation of the rights of persons”.  This is a county function so the reference to health services should be deleted.

The language referring to a volunteer fire department is no longer needed and should be deleted.

Article XIII City Owned Utilities

Charlie Blosten, Director of Public Works, said Littleton is no longer in the water business and any reference to water be removed from the charter.

Brown said Littleton has some rights to water in McClellan and asked if deleting the references to water would limit Littleton from accessing our evaporative shares. Deleting this section would not have any bearing on the water rights.

Vogt asked if the water right sold to Denver Water should have been sold without a vote of the people.  Blosten said the right was not sold but the contract was renegotiated.  This led to a short discussion about the sale of real property and the sale of opportunity.

Section 116 – Railroad Tracks and Crossings

Eliminate – all railroad crossings have been eliminated.

Section 117 – Revocable Licenses and Section 118 – Revocable Permits

Eliminate – there is a city code that covers this.  There are 200 in process right now and it is not reasonable to have council pass an ordinance for each.  The responsibility has been delegated by the council to the Director of Public Works .

Section 120 Condemnations or Purchase

Language addition to include “any other similar infrastructure or facilities” has been suggested to be consistent with the city’s legal authority.

Section 122 – Enabling Act (for Career Service)

Eliminate – Penny said he did not know the purpose or value of the section and no home rule city is going that way.  We don’t need it in this day and age.

This completed the Sections as identified on their Agenda.

Fellman mentioned some election law issues that he been brought up in the past.  He had exchanged emails with Steve Brainerd on the different residency requirements in the state law.  The legislature is correcting their error and all residency requirements will be the same.  Wendy Heffner, city clerk, said the governor had signed the HB1164 that day.  (This is true – now both sections of the law now read the same – residency requirements are 22 days in the state of Colorado with zero days required in the municipality or school district.  So, someone could live in Colorado Springs for 22 days prior to the election, show up in Littleton on election day and present themselves at the county clerk’s office, say they intend to move to Littleton and be allowed to vote in the Littleton elections.)

Brown suggested that in their report to council there be a mention of including a charter review committee in the charter.  He also thought the difficulty of achieving a quorum should be mentioned – the membership number needs to be workable.  (There have been a few meetings where a quorum was not attainable so the meetings were canceled.)

 Schledorn thought it might be better to let the council raise the question of the charter review inclusion in the charter.  She thought there were only two more meetings of the group.  Bagley thought there might be more than two more meetings required.  Wooten wanted to meet within the date restrictions given to them by council.

As the meeting was winding down Bill Long asked if they would have an opportunity to add elements to the Charter?  Parsons said she would like everyone to bring issues forward – it is a citizen review – we needed staff input but it is a citizen’s document.

Bagley said there had been suggestions made by the public that should be discussed – an example was the inclusion of the Complan as was made by Tom Kristopeit.

Next meeting will be March 5th in the Community Room at City Center.

 

 

 

 

 

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