Monroe council divided on charter review suggestions; vote expected next month

Monroe City Council is considering some changes to the city's charter. Members are expected to vote on the proposals from the Charter Review Committee next month. FILE PHOTO

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Monroe City Council is considering some changes to the city's charter. Members are expected to vote on the proposals from the Charter Review Committee next month. FILE PHOTO

Term limits, penalties for absences addressed.

Monroe residents will have to wait a little longer to find out what possible amendments to the city’s charter may appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

During a three-hour meeting Tuesday night, six council members — Robert “Bob” Routson, who is resigning his seat on council next week, was absent — and Law Director Phil Callahan discussed numerous suggestions the Charter Review Commission forwarded.

The charter, considered the city’s constitution, is reviewed every 10 years and the committee included chair Kelly Clark, vice chair Katie Wagner, Linda Tucker, Kara Brown, Vicki Hickman and Colleen Taylor.

It appears the three most discussed recommendations are whether to change the language in the charter from using the pronouns “he/she” to “they” or with a job title; implementing term limits for city council; and how many meetings they are allowed to miss before being removed from council.

Callahan told council members they have several options: Place none of the recommendations on the ballot, place individual items or group them.

To be eligible for the Nov. 4 election, the ballot language must be submitted to the Butler County Board of Elections by Aug. 4. That means council members will vote on the possible changes at their next meetings, July 13 or July 27.

One suggestion from the review commission concerned term limits for council members. They would be allowed to serve two four-year terms and after serving eight years, a council member could step down for at least two years, then run again.

By setting term limits, the commission hopes to prevent “stagnation, indifference” on city council and create more turnover, Clark said. The suggestion wasn’t a “negative reflection” on council, but a way to bring “new ideas to old problems,” she told members.

Council member Christina McElfresh said she had “no issue” with the idea.

But Vice Mayor Keith Funk said he ran for council six years ago because there weren’t enough candidates. He fears there may be a time when there are more vacancies than candidates.

He said after eight years council members are “incredibly valuable.”

“Let’s not force people out of this seat,” he said.

Of the seven council members, Routson (24 years), Todd Hickman (21 years) and Anna Hale (15 years) have exceeded the recommended term limits. The terms for those three expire Dec. 31. If re-elected, all current council members will be allowed to serve eight more years.

The review commission also wanted members to be held more accountable for missing meetings. Members who miss two-thirds of the meetings in a calendar year will vacate their seats, the commission recommended.

Funk said he was concerned that if a council member was hospitalized for an extended time and unable to attend meetings, they shouldn’t lose their seat.

“This doesn’t feel right,” he said.

IN OTHER NEWS:

Council approved the city advertising for the vacant seat on council created when Routson resigns at the end of the month. His term expires Dec. 31.

The deadline to apply is 5 p.m. July 2.

McElfresh was appointed to the planning commission, filling Routson’s seat, effective July 1.

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