Committee presents recommendations for amendments to Oakland’s Charter

A Citizens Advisory Committee gave its recommendations last week to the Oakland Board of Mayor and Aldermen for amendments to the Town Charter.
Committee Chairman Tim Goodroe presented the recommendations Thursday night in a detailed report at the board’s regular monthly meeting.
He noted that Mayor Chris Goodman appointed the seven-member committee in August to examine Oakland’s Private Act Charter of 1994 and propose potential changes.
“We were tasked with looking at several areas of the Charter,” Goodroe recalled, “particularly, those that might affect the upcoming municipal elections.”
He said that, at its initial meeting, the committee identified several issues needing examination:
(1) staggered terms for the aldermen
(2) the election process
(3) possible employment of a town manager
(4) duties of elected and appointed personnel
(5) department directors serving at the will of the mayor
At several subsequent meetings, Goodroe said, information pertaining to those areas was introduced and shared.
On Oct. 7, the committee conducted an open meeting, where it reviewed and debated several issues and ultimately compiled its recommendations. It concluded that changing to the “council-manager” form of government would be in Oakland’s best interest.
Goodroe said that structure promotes effective management that is “transparent, responsive and accountable.”
“It was first established in the early 1900s to stifle corruption in local government,” he noted. “It has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States.”
Under it, Goodroe said, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen would retain “all power and authority” to set policy. But it would employ a professional manager to administer the “day-to-day business” of the town.
The committee recommended that the board be increased to five aldermen who would serve staggered terms.
“Without them,” Goodroe said, “the whole board could be turned over in one election, and that’s not good for this town. So, there would be an election every two years for a four-year term.”
He noted that, at the completion of the November 2016 elections, the alderman positions would be numbered 1 to 5 according to the results, and the candidate who received the most votes would occupy Position 1.
The first three positions would have a four-year term, while the last two would initially have a two-year term. Positions 4 and 5 would be up for a four-year term in 2018 and Positions 1-3 in 2020.
At its first regular meeting after each municipal election, the board would elect one of its members as mayor and another as vice mayor, each for a two-year term.
The mayor would preside at all meetings, have a voice and a vote, but no veto power. He or she would propose ordinances, sign them upon final passage and execute all deeds, bonds and contracts made in the name of the town.
The vice mayor would perform the duties of the mayor during the latter’s “inability to act” and would assume that position if it became vacant.
If a vacancy occurred in the vice mayor position, the board would have 30 days to fill it with one of the aldermen. It would also have 30 days to appoint a town resident to fill a vacant alderman position.
The mayor would receive a monthly salary of no less than $500 and no more than $1,000. The vice mayor and the other aldermen would each be paid no less than $300 and no more than $500 a month.
Although this would be in the Charter, Goodroe said the board would have to set the salaries within those parameters. If it failed to do so, the salaries would be set at their stated minimums.
The town manager would prepare meeting agendas and reports for the board, attend all meetings and participate in discussions, serve as the town’s budget director and purchasing agent, administer personnel policies, apply for and administer grants and investigate residents’ complaints.
At least 45 days prior to the start of the fiscal year, the manager would prepare and submit a budget to the board. It would outline the proposed financial policies of the town, indicate any major changes, summarize the town’s debt and describe the budget’s important features.
The town recorder and the directors of all departments would be nominated by the manager and appointed or dismissed by a two-thirds vote of the board.
Subject to day-to-day supervision by the manager, the recorder would attend all board meetings, prepare and maintain a “full and accurate record” of its business transactions, serve as the town’s treasurer and tax collector and be required to become a Certified Municipal Finance Officer within two years after appointment.
Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution states that a municipality can propose changes to its Charter by one of the following methods:
(1) a two-thirds vote of the local legislative body
(2) a majority of residents voting in a general or special election
Town Attorney Richard Myers has said any proposed amendments must be submitted for approval by both houses of the Tennessee General Assembly as a Private Act.
Gov. Bill Haslam would then have to sign the Private Act, and Secretary of State Tre Hargett would certify its adoption.
But to become effective, it would have to be ratified by at least three of the four Oakland aldermen within 60 days after it is signed by the governor.
Alderman Billy Ray Morris has said he would like the board members to set Dec. 1 as the “deadline” to compile their list of proposed Charter changes. That way, Myers can do the “proper paperwork” and have it ready to submit to Nashville before the state legislature convenes in January 2016.