Various aspects of City Council membership were discussed at length by members of Delaware’s charter review commission last week.
The review commission is continuing its discussion on possible changes to the city’s charter, its governing document.
Commission members talked about the powers of City Council, its pay, what qualifies as residency, vacancies and the number of readings for legislation.
The commission debated whether council could call for an investigation for wrongdoing. Some felt this wrong, and would have amateurish results. Others felt this could eliminate the possibility of a Flint water crisis, and equated it to a congressional hearing.
There was also division on the definition of residency. Some felt that wherever someone raised their children was home; while others said if one stays overnight as part of their job, the business was their home.
Section 11, concerning “Discipline and expulsion of members,” required the most rewriting, said city attorney Darren Shulman.
“Council may punish its members for violation of its rules or for disorderly behavior, and, with the consent of at least five members, may expel a member from office therefor; but no member shall be expelled unless he/she be notified of the grounds of such expulsion and be given an opportunity to be heard thereon,” Section 11 reads.
Commission members wanted to take out the word “punishment,” and wanted expulsion to be difficult to enact. For example, they said a council member could be disciplined for being disruptive, but not kicked off. Misdemeanors such as speeding tickets would not be grounds for removal; but felony convictions or ethics violations would be.
There was also talk of how “notice shall be given to the public” regarding vacancies on council, and whether both newspapers and websites should be used.
In addition, the council members’ compensation, which the charter says is $120 per year, would be changed to say council will set the salary by ordinance.
The commission seemed to want council to continue the practice of three readings of legislation, saying this would give residents enough time to attend a meeting if necessary. However, if the ordinances were not controversial or required emergency passage, the three readings rule could be waived.
Delaware’s charter was adopted in 1951, when the city went to a council-manager form of government. The 30-page document consists of 25 articles and 129 sections that outline the duties of City Council, the city manager, city staff, departments and boards.
Every eight years, Delaware’s city charter is required to be examined by a nine-person review commission. After several meetings, the commission will submit its report of recommendations to City Council by July 11. Once recommendations are made, council will decide which, if any, recommendations it will submit to city voters in November’s general election.
The charter can viewed at www.delawareohio.net. Suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 740-203-1010.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.