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Council's charter review commission is no more

Wednesday, July 02, 2014 - Updated: 10:25 AM


The city is back to one charter review commission.

"Last night, our [commission] more or less resigned," 4th Ward Alderwoman Diane Hatzenbuhler said Tuesday during a Common Council meeting in City Hall.

Before Tuesday's meeting, Robert Going, chairman of the council's appointed charter review commission, said a 2008 court case reaffirmed the precedence of a similar commission appointed by Mayor Ann Thane.

"They were going to pass a local law [Tuesday night] establishing us officially as a commission under state law," Going said. "But in the meantime, we learned of a 2008 court case that says that a mayor's commission prevents a common council commission from doing anything. So [Monday night] my commission met and agreed not to meet further, as it would be a total waste of time."

"Given the timing and previous statements of the mayor, the only fair conclusion to draw is that the mayor's commission only exists for the purpose of keeping ours from doing anything," Going said, "as there is now no way under the law that anything we recommend could be brought before the voters. As a result, she has a free field to propose charter changes that would increase her powers and reduce those of the Common Council."

Corporation Counsel Gerard DeCusatis also said the mayor's commission takes precedence over any other commission.

"If there are competing charter commissions, and the mayor's commission puts something up for vote, then the mayor's commission precludes the other charter commission," DeCusatis said.

Hatzenbuhler said the law is not fair.

"So [the council's committee] already spent a good six weeks, since May, doing work [on the charter] and now they feel like whatever they want put on the ballot is going to be shot down because [the mayor's] commission will not approve it," she said.

"It supersedes it," 3rd Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. interjected. "I want the paperwork on this. I want it in writing. If I have to go to the Supreme Court, then I will. I just don't understand how one thing supersedes everything."

Thane told Barone he could have the state law in writing to see for himself.

Hatzenbuhler asked the council if they would be wasting time passing Tuesday's resolution.

"Are we wasting time by passing this local law and appointing these people to the council's charter committee? Is everything they're doing a waste of time?" she said.

"That's for you to determine," Thane answered. "They can do the work and they can talk with my commission about ideas. I've said that from the start."

Hatzenbuhler asked if passing the local law would allow the council's committee to put something on the ballot, but DeCusatis said the mayor's commission takes precedence whether the council's committee is constituted or not.

She also asked if the council's committee could put something on the ballot in an area the mayor's commission hadn't.

"If the mayor 's commission does not [put something on the ballot] regarding a specific item then can our [committee] do so?" she asked.

"Any item whatsoever the mayor's commission puts on the ballot takes precedence over the council's committee and that's it," DeCusatis said.

Fifth Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero asked DeCusatis how many members could be appointed to the mayor's commission. DeCusatis said up to 15 members could be appointed.

The mayor's commission currently has nine members and after Leggiero suggested she take some of the council's appointments onto her commission, she said she'd consider the possibility.

Thane suggested the council's committee continue working on the charter.

"I suggest they communicate with my commission on ideas for the charter," she said. "If they wish to continue, I think they should talk to my commission to compare and contrast and bring something to the table."


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