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Authority uncertain, city charter committee to meet one last time

Authority uncertain, city charter committee to meet one last time

July 13th, 2018 by Nicole Roberts in Local News

The Jefferson City Charter Review Advisory Committee plans to meet a final time to vote on its city charter change recommendations as it was unclear if they had the authority Thursday night to vote.

The committee's next meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Aug. 7 at 320 E. McCarty St. They plan to vote on recommended changes to the Jefferson City Parks and Recreation Commission city charter section.

The committee reviewed city staff's draft language for the section Thursday night and voted on some amendments. By the end of the meeting, however, it was unclear if those votes counted.

The charter committee had until July 9 to submit recommendations to the Jefferson City Council. If the committee needed more time, it could request an extension.

During the June 27 meeting, the committee finalized most of its recommendations and submitted those to the council, along with a 60-day extension request to review the Parks commission city charter section.

Local attorney Stephanie Bell, who was hired by the Parks foundation, said she did not believe the committee submitted a time-extension request to the city clerk. Since a letter was potentially not submitted to the clerk, Bell argued at the end of the meeting, the committee did not have the authority to vote on other recommendations, making their votes Thursday invalid.

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"I don't think this committee has the authority to vote on anything tonight," she said.

City Counselor Ryan Moehlman did not comment during the meeting on whether a letter had been submitted to the city clerk or if this action was required.

Committee chair George Hartsfield sent a letter to Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin and the council July 3, providing some general comments about the committee and the recommended changes. The letter was not addressed to the city clerk and did not mention a time-extension request.

In a staff report to Tergin and the council earlier this month, Moehlman said the committee was requesting a 60-day extension.

Committee members did not say if they would submit a letter to the city clerk prior to the Aug. 7 meeting.

Hartsfield is scheduled to present a charter review committee update to the council Monday.

In Hartsfield's letter, he said the committee believes "the objectives of the committee can be achieved without diminishing the importance of the (Parks) commission." He added "a balance of commission authority and oversight by the elected officials is within reach."

Originally, the city charter committee considered taking away the Park commission's exclusive control of the park fund.

Moehlman said last month the 2005 elimination of the parks property tax — when voters approved a parks sales tax to instead fund parks — extinguished the Parks commission's rights under state statute, including the right to exclusively control the park fund. This is because the parks property tax and Parks commission are listed under Chapter 90 of the Missouri Revised Statutes while the parks sales tax is required by Chapter 644.

Bell told the committee last month that there was no language in Chapter 90 of the state statute that extinguished the right of an established park board when a property tax is no longer levied.

The proposed city charter language Thursday evening allows the Parks and Recreation Commission to "administer all money appropriated from the Park Fund by the City Council." This park fund would only go toward parks or recreation purposes, and the fund would be "kept separate and apart from other moneys of the City," the city charter recommendation states.

This is similar language to the current city charter.

The committee voted Thursday to add language stating the Parks commission must submit all proposed acquisitions to the City Council. Those acquisitions would be approved unless two-thirds of the council voted against the acquisition within 30 days of the submission.

"I would think that one place that would be commonly used in would be this type of situations, in purchase of real estate," Moehlman said, adding this language is similar to other city's charters. "This is one of those major decisions that City Council would want to weigh in on."

Bell said she thought the city charter committee and the Parks commission were going to have a meeting to brainstorm amendments to the city charter section. She added this did not happen.

This was also a point discussed during the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Tuesday.

Hartsfield's letter states the city charter committee met with the Parks department and commission three times. Commissioners thought this was "misleading" as it implies the committee met with the full Parks commission, commission President Brad Bates said.

There was one meeting, Bates said, which was between two Parks commissioners and a sub-committee of the city charter review committee.

"I don't believe other meetings occurred unless they are referencing the public speak out portion of their agenda, but that certainly is not a meeting," Bates said.

If the proposed changes submitted to the council are approved, they may appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. The committee would also be terminated.