BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
The city attorney is expected to weigh in on who gets to appoint members of the city Historic District Commission at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Council members and residents were at odds over a proposed amendment to city ordinances regulating the matter.
“I should be able throw names up if I think they’re qualified for the position,” said Council member David Marsh at the Sept. 25 meeting. “The mayor still runs the meeting – if there are problems, at least others could put up names.”
“If you don’t trust seven elected City Council members to do that, you need to look in the mirror and ask some serious questions,” said Council member Jason Kneisc.
Council discussed a proposed amendment to Chapter 152 of the city Municipal Code. It would add to “the (HDC) members shall be appointed by the mayor,” the provision “with the advice and consent of City Council. A member may be removed from the Historic District Commission pursuant to Section 4.21 of the City Charter.”
Section 4.21 says commission members can be removed for misconduct in office only after a hearing with 10-day notice and opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and to present testimony.
Marsh and Kneisc wanted the “shall be appointed” provision to be changed to allow any member of the council to make appointments.
“Anyone can nominate, is essentially what we’re saying,” Kneisc said.
Mayor Steven Percival said that could lead to a “free-for-all” of nominations.
“I’m OK with the mayor appoints, council confirms,” Percival said. “I don’t know if we want just anybody to be able to pop up and make appointments.”
Council member Sharron Catallo said council members traditionally make nominations, which were considered by the mayor who then made the nomination, with confirmation by City Council.
“Basically that’s how we did it – we’ve always voted,” Catallo said.
Resident Bill Basinger, member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, agreed, saying past mayors had a “gentlemen’s agreement” to allow it. The “mayor shall appoint” provision is left over from the strong-mayor type of government used as a template for the city ordinances decades ago and has no place in the city’s manager-type government, he said.
“The mayor has no administrative authority – he or she is considered equal with other council members,” Basinger said. “It makes no sense to have one person be the gatekeeper – suggestions have always been considered in the past.”
“That’s not true,” said Council member Sue Wylie.
Under Chapter 30.01, if the city manager is disabled or sick and can’t perform his or her duties, the mayor “may perform the city manager duties and may designate a city employee, a member of the City Council or a member of a city commission or board to perform specific duties.”
Cara Catallo, whose non-nomination to the HDC by Percival kicked off the ordinance amendment drive, said tabling just delays the matter.
“My concern as a citizen is that I don’t want this to go on for months and months without being rectified,” Cara said. “Every other mayor we’ve had, it’s always been brought up at the table and there was a vote – the current way is the radical change.”
City attorney Thomas Ryan, who was not at the Sept. 25 meeting, wrote the proposed amendment. He’s scheduled to be at the Oct. 9 meeting.
“If you’re saying, have Tom Ryan look at it, I’m totally fine with that,” Kneisc said. “I’m fine with postponing first reading until it’s changed.”
The council voted unanimously to table the proposed amendment.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO