New Albany City Council on Tuesday, June 4, is expected to conduct a first reading of an ordinance to approve recommended changes to the city charter.
Should council members ultimately approve those changes, they will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot for voters to decide, said city attorney Mitch Banchefsky. The changes would take effect Jan. 1, he said.
But before City Council votes, two readings are required, Banchefsky said. A second reading could come as early as the second meeting in June, but council members might want more time to look at it, he said.
The charter is a type of local constitution that reflects how local governments are run, said council member Matt Shull, who was part of the charter-review group.
"It's really how we exercise our own home rule," he said.
Last fall, the charter-review group began monthly meetings on the charter, which is reviewed every 10 years, Shull said.
The proposed changes are not major, but they were suggested to reflect the current state of the city, Shull said.
About 90% of the changes are considered housekeeping edits, Banchefsky said. Examples include changing references from "village" to "city" (New Albany officially became a city in 2011 after surpassing the U.S. Census Bureau's population threshold of 5,000) and defining the city's form of government as a council-manager plan.
Another proposed change would make it clear that any qualified council member or other qualified individual may serve as magistrate for New Albany Mayor's Court, Banchefsky said.
Lawyers with the required training may preside over the court, he said.
The city historically has permitted anyone who is qualified to serve as magistrate, Banchefsky said, and council President Pro Tempore Colleen Briscoe, a lawyer, does so currently. The city has another attorney, Sean Maxfield, who handles trials and contested matters, Banchefsky said.
Other potential changes involve City Council activities. For example, a proposed change would have the city select a new president pro tempore every year instead of every two years, Banchefsky said.
Another change would allow City Council to begin proceedings to compel a member to forfeit his or her seat if he or she has three unexcused regular-meeting absences in a 12-month period, Banchefsky said. The current charter says three consecutive meeting absences are required to begin this process.
Administrative topics also are covered.
For example, a change to which employees are considered classified and unclassified has been proposed to keep pace with a growing city and police force, Banchefsky said.
Most city employees are classified, meaning they can't be fired without cause, he said. Upper-management positions generally are unclassified, meaning they serve at the pleasure of the city manager and could be fired without cause, he said.
Classified also refers to employees paid hourly and unclassified refers to salaried, he said.
A proposed change to this section of the charter says that any police positions above the level of sergeant would be unclassified, Banchefsky said.
Officers at sergeant rank and below currently are classified employees and would continue to be, he said. The chief is the department's only unclassified employee, so the change would help the department if it chose to add other higher-ranked leaders in the future, he said.
Any questions about the charter may be referred to city spokesman Scott McAfee at firstname.lastname@example.org, Banchefsky said.