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Mayor's charter commission looks for definition of powers

Friday, June 20, 2014 - Updated: 10:21 AM


After being appointed June 10, Mayor Ann Thane's Charter Review Commission has been tackling ideas to improve the city's charter.

The nine-member commission consisting of Chairman Peter Califano, vice chairman William Lorman, Anthony Agresta, Michael Chiara, Michael Dayian, Gina DeRossi, Aimee Fedullo, Albert Mancini and Curtis Peninger has met twice since its creation.

Califano said the commission worked on "housekeeping" in its first meeting -- introductions, and goals for the charter. In the second meeting the group narrowed down areas of the charter on which they intend to concentrate.

"We will be tackling the charter in order at first, then moving to specific sections," Califano said.

He said the commission intends to define the separation of powers more clearly because the members don't want the city going to the Supreme Court again.

"We saw what happened over the winter when the powers weren't as defined as they should have been, we don't want that again," he said.

The commission will also focus on the city's budget process within the charter.

"The council was able to cut positions for next year's budget, and I don't want to get too political, but the council came in and eliminated a whole bunch of positions and none of those cuts were favorable to the mayor," he said. "Some wording needs to be changed in the charter because the current charter provides an avenue for games to be played."

Califano said the commission is also going to focus on the city's audits.

"There are people in our group that would like to see some internal and external audit procedures done, but that'll be discussed further down the road," he said.

The commission will also look at the structure of the city's departments.

"We'd like to look at the best possible oversight to succeed and create the best possible product for the taxpayers," he added.

Califano said the group is motivated and hopes to get a lot done.

He stressed the fact that the charter is not the commission's, its the city's and the group isn't working for the mayor, it's working for the taxpayers.

Califano's position on the commission, however, was questioned not long after the appointments were made.

Fourth Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler originally thought Califano could not be on the commission because he already serves on the Ethics Board and Planning Board.

Califano explained to Hatzenbuhler that the language in the Municipal Home Rule Law, Article 4, Part 2: City Charter Revision, Section D which states, "No person shall be disqualified to serve as a member, employee or consultant of the commission by reason of holding any other public office or employment, nor shall he forfeit any such office or employment by reason of his appointment hereunder, notwithstanding the provisions of any general, special or local law, ordinance or city charter," pre-empts the language in the local law that states someone cannot serve on more than two boards at the same time.

"We're all straightened out and I understand that [Califano] can be on the commission without any issues," Hatzenbuhler said.

As for the council's appointed Charter Review Committee, which will be put on the back burner now that the mayor's commission has been appointed and has precedence, Califano said his group will listen to any ideas they have regarding the charter.

"We'll reach out to anyone. We're not a commission for ourselves," he said. "If they have a good idea we have to take it into consideration. This isn't anything political, we just want to create something positive for the city."


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