Gardner City Council members will research changing the way appointments
are made to the council when there’s a vacancy.
“I basically have several points that I’m concerned about and would like to see changed,” Council vice president Chris Morrow said.
The governing body added another appointment, Randy Gregorcyk, to its ranks on May 4, and Morrow requested that council consider changes to the process during the meeting.
Currently, the Mayor appoints and the council approves. Under state statute however, if council does not approve a Mayoral appointment, they must draft and approve a resolution declaring the candidate unfit. If council simply chooses not to vote on a Mayoral appointment, the candidate is given the job after a several day waiting period.
Mayor Dave Drovetta suggested that council members may want to charter out of those statutes that govern appointments.
“A number of cities have chartered out of it,” he explained during the June 4 council meeting.
That’s Morrow’s first item of concern in considering a new appointment process.
The statute, Morrow explained, “is basically asking elected and appointed representatives to kick dirt on someone brought forward instead of just having an up or down vote.”
Morrow said he isn’t trying to take appointment authority from the Mayor, but he would like the council to have some input.
“That’s not really part of the process right now,” Morrow said. “I’m looking to add that the appointment is made after recommendations and advice from the council and then an up or down confirmation vote.”
Since his tenure began in 2009, Mayor Drovetta has appointed five people to the council. In some cases, he’s asked for input from the council. But, Morrow said, he doesn’t have to.
After former council member Brian Broxterman resigned last month, Morrow said council was not advised on the replacement process.
“(The Mayor) picked from a previous pool of candidates for the opening, but we were really unsure of what was going on,” Morrow said. “And he didn’t solicit recommendations from council members.”
Ideally, Morrow would like a policy that requires the council be asked for appointment recommendations in a work session or in a council meeting. The Mayor could still decide to appoint his own choice.
“But with five council members, you might get five other recommendations,” Morrow said. “Yeah, the Mayor may pick his own, but the appointment is going to have to stand up to scrutiny and pass a confirmation vote.”
Currently, those appointed to the council serve out the remainder of the term of the people they replace. That could mean serving between three and four years as an appointee. Morrow would like to see appointees go before voters at the next city election – even if there is still time remaining on the term.
“The next piece would probably be an opportunity to return to representative democracy in an expedited fashion,” Morrow said. “Basically if someone is appointed to a seat with more than two years left on the term, that council seat would be contested at the next election for the final two years.”
Finally, Morrow would like council members to consider creating a ward system within the city of Gardner.
State statute requires the city to move to a ward system once it becomes a city of the first class with 25,000 residents. After the last census, Gardner’s population clocked in at more than 19,000.
“There are people who are going to have different desires not just for their city but for their neighborhood,” Morrow said. “The people in the southeast side of the city are not likely to have the same concerns as the people in the northwest section.”
Council members have agreed to discuss the issue sometime after next year’s budget is approved in August.