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Charter Commission revisits ordinance

FAIRMONT– The Fairmont Charter Commission revisited a proposed ordinance amendment dealing with the form of government from chapter two of the city’s charter during its meeting on Tuesday evening.

At the March 28 Fairmont City Council meeting, the council voted not to accept any of the sic proposed charter amendments. At the April Charter Commission meeting, the board voted to send five of the six amendments on a ballot during the general election.

The other proposed amendment, which would clarify the form of government as a “weak mayor” council plan, received six no votes, six yes votes and one abstention. In the case of a tie, the motion failed.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Chair Mike Katzenmeyer said there was a request to bring the ordinance amendment back to the table.

“All it does is specify we are a weak mayor, strong council, which is what we are,” Chuck Omvig said. He made a motion to approve the ordinance amendment.

“We’re going back to last meeting and voting again?” asked Conrad Anderson.

Omvig said it was a tie and wasn’t resolved at the last meeting.

“Being as it was a tie, the motion failed to send this to the voters so it was resolved at the last meeting,” said Barry Altman.

Omvig asked if there was a second to the motion.

The commission again discussed the ordinance amendment. Some members said they didn’t like what the name “weak mayor” implies. Jon Davis clarified that that’s what the form of government is called in the League of Minnesota Cities.

Jay Maynard said that he was recently perusing the LMC website and 10 cities had no mention of form of government and of 17 others, 16 had mayor-council, council-mayor, council-manager. He said only one city, Willmar, was listed as having a weak mayor council.

“I don’t think it’s an issue,” Maynard said.

Some members said they thought it would be better if it was defined and included the word “weak mayor” as it’s listed in the LMC.

“The mayor’s powers are defined in the charter pretty much all the way through. This section doesn’t really control the mayor’s powers,” said Maynard.

Katzenmeyer asked if the motion was to revise what was proposed before and failed in a tie vote.

Omvig made a motion and Terry Anderson seconded to re-submit for reconsideration to the general election.

“I’m having a problem with this. We voted on this and we didn’t like the outcome so we’re going to keep bringing it up until we get the outcome we want?” asked Altman.

“If you can’t sell us, how are you going to sell the citizens of Fairmont to vote on this,” said Conrad Anderson.

There was discussion whether the proposed ordinance amendment needs to go to the city council again. Omvig said they should be able to submit it directly to the city clerk to have it put on the ballot for the general election.

Robynn Buhmann suggested getting rid of the quotations around “weak mayor” and adding “as defined by the League of Minnesota Cities” to the proposed ordinance amendment.

The board voted on changing the language and in a roll call vote it passed 7-5. The board again voted to submit it to the general election and it passed 7-5.

Moving to other matters, Omvig said he thinks the city attorney should be at their meetings either in person or by phone to review what they’re doing. He cited open meeting law violation concerns.

“I think it would be expensive,” said Buhmann.

“It’s an expensive cost but state statute allows you to do it up to $20,000 based on some other numbers, I don’t know what they are. It’s usually done I believe and it is in our city charter,” Omvig said.

City Administrator Cathy Reynolds was present and referred the commission to a binder they were given with information from the LMC, which said the charter commission is subject to open meeting law. She then provided some examples of how open meeting law violations can occur.

Omvig said the LMC attorney charges $100 an hour and the city attorney charges $150 so they can use the LMC attorney if they want.

“What are you suggesting we run through the League of Minnesota Cities?” Katzenmeyer asked.

Omvig said any suggestions they come up with should be passed by an attorney first. Katzenmeyer said that Reynolds has run the commission’s changes by the city attorney in the past so that the attorney can look through the language.

“Why have a middle person in there? Why not have it go directly to an attorney?” Omvig asked.

Reynolds said that she doesn’t have 2022 budget numbers but for 2021, $2,630 is all the city by statute has for administrative costs unless something additional is approved.

“That’s not going to get a lot of attorney time to sit here with you at meetings, which is why we’ve done it in this manner,” Reynolds said.

In other business,

— The commission designated Mike Katzenmeyer and Dale Martens to go to various service clubs and community meetings to talk about the proposed changes to the charter.

— The commission considered chapters 3.08 through 3.12 and found nothing it wanted to change in the first four chapters. It tabled 3.12.

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