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Granite Shoals to consider city charter changes

Granite Shoals Charter Review Committee Vice Chairman Jeff Kahl

Granite Shoals Charter Review Committee Vice Chairman Jeff Kahl makes a presentation to City Council members regarding recommended changes to the city’s charter. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

After six months of work, the Granite Shoals Charter Review Committee presented its proposed changes to the city’s governing document to the City Council at its regular meeting on Tuesday, March 28. The council will now determine which changes will be put before voters in November.

The 10-member committee was formed in September 2022 to review the city’s charter and make recommendations to the council on potential updates. The committee met every two weeks, occasionally consulting with City Attorney Joshua Katz to ensure that their recommendations were legal and proper.

Among the committee’s recommendations were annual reviews of the city manager’s performance, removing the council’s power to hire and fire the city secretary, using the city attorney to determine and handle conflicts of interest, adjustments to candidate eligibility, and monthly financial reports from the city administration.

The committee also recommended as a whole that the council review and adjust the city’s ethics ordinances to provide greater consequences for violations of the city charter.

“Although there were times of turmoil and disagreements, we always came to a decision that was in the best interest of our citizens and our community,” said committee Chairman Kiel Arnone, who is also a candidate for mayor in the May 6 election. His is running against Jim Davant.

The changes proposed by the committee will be reviewed by the council, which will determine if they should be added to the November ballot. The city’s charter recommends that this process take place every two years.

Key recommendations include:

  • Article 3 adjustment — Removal of language that calls for a mayor pro tem to be appointed any time a council seat is vacated.
  • Article 3 adjustment — Removal of the city council’s power to hire and fire the city secretary.
  • Article 3 adjustment — The city attorney will make recommendations on conflicts of interest and notify the council of how to handle such matters.
  • Article 4 adjustment — Exact qualifications established for the position of city manager, including previous city administration experience and relevant education.
  • Article 4 adjustment — The city manager is to provide monthly finance reports rather than quarterly.
  • Article 4 adjustment — Annual reviews for all city employees, including the city manager, city attorney, and municipal judge.
  • Article 5 adjustment — Qualifications for elected officials, including residing in the city prior to the filing date, and language prohibiting anyone closely related to a city employee from being appointed to or filing for a position on city council. A recommended adjustment to Article 14 would allow an exception to this rule if the employee has been with the city for at least six months prior to the appointment or filing.

“I’m impressed by the quality of work,” Mayor Pro Tem Ron Munos said. “It looks like your reasoning was well thought out, and I commend the charter review committee for doing a bang-up job.”

The presentation concluded with committee Vice Chairman Jeff Kahl making a strong recommendation to the council for significant changes to the city’s ethics ordinances, too.

“We’d like to recommend that the City Council make that the highest priority,” he said. 

Councilor Phil Ort mentioned that the city’s charter allowed for the hiring and firing of the city secretary so the city manager did not have the sole power to control that position. The decision was made to help curb the power of former City Manager Jeff Looney, Ort said.

“We had that check and balance put in the charter, two charter reviews ago, to ensure that council would always have insight as to what is going on in the city,” he said.

The council will now consider which items should be added to the coming ballots for the November election.