Euharlee charter revision underway
by Jason Lowrey
Oct 16, 2012 | 1030 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For the first time since it was written in 1975, Euharlee’s city charter is undergoing a comprehensive revision, as required under state law. While the charter has been amended a number of times, it has never seen a revision.

The five-member committee, consisting of Steve Zuber, Barbara Ford, Dick Willson, Pam Mallory and chairman Eric Smithey, held its third meeting Monday night at city hall. Much of the discussion focused on the job description for the city manager and how much power the manager should have within city government.

As the current Euharlee charter does not include a job description or codify which department heads report to the city manager, the committee looked to the recently revised Adairsville city charter as a template.

Willson said City Attorney Boyd Pettit, who is also city attorney for Adairsville, provided them with a copy of the charter.

“He just went through this, and my guess is without him telling us, this is the template to use. He wanted us to have this as a template to use,” he said.

However, the committee was not sure if the Adairsville charter was a good fit for Euharlee. They debated the amount of power a city manager would have under an Adairsville-based charter, which includes prohibiting city employees from going over the city manager’s head with complaints.

They decided to ask Pettit for clarification on a number of points throughout the Adairsville charter and further research Euharlee’s current departmental organization.

Committee members also found themselves discussing the small amount of power the mayor has under the current charter. There was a general consensus that the mayor should be able to act as a voting member of the city council rather than just serving as a tiebreaker. The idea of having some department heads report to mayor and the city council was debated as well.

“I was trying to get a hold of the city attorney to ask him one specific question,” Willson said. “Does the council want a city run by the council or do they want a city run by the city manager? He ought to know the answer to that question.”

Prior to the meeting each committee member had read through Adairsville’s city charter, making notes and highlighting sections they wanted to discuss. During Monday’s meeting they went through the charter, and their questions, section by section in order to gain an idea of how to structure a revised charter.

However, any ideas coming out of the revision committee are only recommendations, Smithey said. After the recommendations are handed in at the end of November, the Euharlee City Council has final say over what will be adopted and sent to the state.

Some of the ideas floated during the meeting ranged from putting a cap on millage rates to limiting the council’s ability to declare imminent domain to instituting term limits on city council members.

“I’ll be honest with you, the way I like to do things ... is you rotate out some people,” Mallory said. “Not everybody at the same time — you don’t ever rotate them out at one time — because you’ve got to have that knowledge base there. But I don’t think people should stay on the council forever and a day.”

In spite of the difficulty in updating Euharlee’s outdated charter, the committee members described the experience as a civic responsibility. Zuber said he saw it as a process that was “overdue,” with Smithey adding it would be impossible to implement the current charter as it contradicts itself.

Ford said she was proud to serve her city. It was a sentiment echoed by the rest of the committee as well.

“We’re putting this on paper with the hope that the people will take it, read it, educate themselves and adhere to it, and hopefully the city will run better because that’s the intent,” Ford said.