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Granite Shoals city charter updates could be on May 2024 ballot

Jeff Kahl at Granite Shoals City Council, 11-14-23

Jeff Kahl, former co-chair of the Granite Shoals Charter Review Committee, gave a presentation on proposed city charter amendments to the City Council on Nov. 14. The council must decide if these changes will be put on the May 2024 city election ballot. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

Granite Shoals residents could vote on several amendments to the city charter in May 2024, if everything goes according to plan. The City Council has until Jan. 14 to order a special election on the proposed changes to the governing document.

The council heard a presentation on 18 proposed charter amendments from Jeff Kahl, the former co-chair of the city’s Charter Review Committee, during its Nov. 14 meeting. This is Kahl’s second presentation on the changes. He also gave one in March, but three council seats have since changed, warranting a refresher. 

Kahl was on a 10-member committee tasked with reviewing Granite Shoals’ charter, which acts as a sort of a constitution for the city. The committee formed in September 2022 and spent about six months coming up with the recommendations.

“The charter is a living document,” Kahl told the council during his most recent presentation. “As we change as a city and as we grow, there are going to be certain language changes and certain additions and deletions to this charter that fit our community. This is standard practice.”

According to the current charter, reviews should be held at least every six years. Once changes are made, the charter cannot be amended again for another two years.

Because the review committee did not make its recommendations until March, the changes could not be included in the May 2023 election. The deadline to order an election in May would have been the preceding January. The city also did not make the Aug. 21, 2023, deadline to order a special election for the November 2023 ballot. 

“We want to be well prepared and scrutinize the changes and make sure that we address any dissenting opinions (on the council),” Place 4 Councilor Steve Hougen told “The charter review recommendations will probably be reviewed and finalized for the January (2024) deadline.”

Proposed changes to the charter range widely, from simple grammatical corrections to serious alterations that could significantly impact the way the city is run. It is up to the council to review the committee’s recommendations and decide which, if any, should be sent to voters in May.

Key changes are as follows:

Article 3 adjustment: Removal of language that calls for a mayor pro-tem to be appointed any time a council seat is vacated. This would keep the City Council from having to hold a new mayor pro-tem appointment every time a new member of the council is appointed.

Article 3 adjustment: Removal of the City Council’s power to hire and fire the city secretary. This change would be made to put administrative control back in the hands of the city manager.

Article 3 adjustment: The city attorney will make recommendations on conflicts of interest and notify the council of how to handle such matters. This language was added to hold the city attorney accountable for providing legal insight on conflicts of interest so the city remains within the law in its decisions.

Article 4 adjustment: Exact qualifications established for the position of city manager, including previous city administration experience and a relevant education. These qualifications were added to create a higher standard for the city manager position and prevent the perpetuation of a “good ol’ boy” system of hiring friends or acquaintances, in Kahl’s words.

Article 4 adjustment: The city manager is to provide monthly finance reports rather than quarterly. Under the current charter, the city manager is only required to provide quarterly financial updates to the council.

Article 4 adjustment: Annual reviews for all city employees, including city manager, city attorney, and municipal judge. This proposed, added language to the charter would codify the council’s ability to conduct reviews of city employees that it has the power to hire and fire.

Article 5 adjustment: Qualifications for elected officials, including residing in the city before the filing date, and language prohibiting anyone closely related to a city employee from being appointed to or filing for a position on the City Council. NOTE: 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 before the appointment or filing.

Article 11 adjustment: Changing the formation date of the Charter Review Committee to no later than June 1 so proposed changes can be put on the following May’s election.

The council also formed the Charter Education Committee, which will work to educate Granite Shoals residents on the proposed changes and their potential impacts. Members are Kahl, Nicole Renteria, and Catherine Bell.