At tonight’s meeting, the Council is expected to discuss or vote on five agenda items pertaining to the office of the mayor.
Mayor Gene Hobgood is expected to bring up a charter amendment allowing him to employ one administrative assistant. The amendment was read at the Council’s Jan. 3 meeting but was not discussed.
The Council voted Dec. 20 to remove the mayor’s ability to employ staff. At the same meeting, the Council affirmed a memorandum of understanding to amend the charter and allow the mayor to employ one assistant.
Hobgood vetoed the Council’s vote to remove his ability to employ staff, but Council members reiterated their vote at the Jan. 3 Council meeting, making the change official.
Hobgood said Wednesday that he doesn’t understand why the Council approved the work of a charter review committee in April 2012 but now wants to change several items.
“What wasn’t wrong with it in April that’s wrong with it now?” he said.
As for allowing the mayor to employ one staff member, Hobgood said it’s not likely that the Council will approve the change.
“(The proposed amendment) is what I put on there as a result of what I thought was an agreement that turned out not to be,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter what they do on that. If they take away funding for the position, it really doesn’t matter.”
Council Member Bill Bryan plans to bring a budget amendment eliminating funding for the mayor’s assistant to the Council for a second reading and a vote.
He also said negotiations on the proposed charter amendment are pretty much over.
“Gene and I have not even discussed it. As far as I’m concerned, the time for discussion is over,” he said.
Bryan said he made attempts to meet with Hobgood to discuss the charter amendment.
Hobgood told the Tribune that he and Bryan were unable to meet before the veto deadline on the amendment to remove the mayor’s staff. Hobgood added that his proposal doesn’t contain anything that was not agreed to.
Bryan said he wanted to discuss “free and open two-way communication” between the assistant and the Council and who has authority to name a person to the position, as well as budgetary concerns.
“I was trying to avoid us reaching some kind of agreement and then immediately start fighting about it,” Bryan said.
Also at tonight’s meeting, Council Member Glen Cummins is expected to introduce a code amendment for a second reading and a vote.
Council Member Hooky Huffman first brought light to a discrepancy between city code and the city’s charter in November. The code now states that the mayor can appoint Council members to Council committees if the Council approves such appointments.
The city’s charter, however, says that the mayor has the sole power to appoint Council committees.
Cummins’ proposal would change the code to match the charter and allow the mayor the power to appoint Council committees.
Cummins has previously said he doesn’t agree with changing the charter one item at a time.
Huffman has previously said he thinks giving the mayor full control over Council committees creates “stacked committees.”
Council Member Bob Rush will bring forth discussion of two charter amendments relating to the mayor: one focusing on veto powers and another pertaining to the mayor’s role as chief executive officer of the city.
Rush said his proposal regarding vetoes is modeled after the city of Woodstock’s mayoral veto.
It would not allow the mayor to veto a full-Council vote, he said. Under the proposed change, the mayor would retain the ability to veto any vote for which one or more Council members was absent, Rush said.
“I was never keen on the mayor’s veto anyway,” Rush said, noting that he is in favor of a veto power styled after the Woodstock mayor’s veto power.
“Otherwise, it can become a nuisance and a delay, and the Council‘s got to keep bringing an issue up week after week,” he said. “I don’t know if the Council agrees with me, but I’m putting it forward anyway.”
The proposed amendment reads:
“The Mayor shall have the right to veto any ordinance that was approved by the Council by the affirmative vote of three members and the negative vote of zero members or the affirmative vote of three members and the negative vote of one member unless all Council members were present at the meeting at which said ordinance was approved.”
Rush also plans to propose amending section 2.36 of the city’s charter, which says the mayor is chief executive of the city and “shall possess all of the executive and administrative power granted to the city under the constitution and laws of the state of Georgia; and all the executive and administrative powers contained in this charter.”
Rush wants to reword the section to say the mayor is the chief executive and shall possess the powers and duties expressed in section 2.35 of the city’s charter, the section outlining his powers and duties.
Rush said the code section granting the mayor all of the executive and administrative power of the city created a strong-mayor form of government but was not validated by the state Legislature.
“If it was done under home rule, it’s invalid,” he said. “All I’m trying to do is keep the mayor as the CEO and define his duties. That’s never really been defined. Everything given in section 2.35 is what the mayor as chief executive can do.”