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Resolution authorizes creation of Charter Review Commission

By Bill Short Flag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has adopted a resolution authorizing the creation of a commission to review the new City Charter and recommend amendments.
Board members took the action during their May 6 regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Frankie Dakin and seconded by Alderman Chris Ford. The motion was passed by six affirmative votes, with Alderman Larry Dagen absent.
Last year, as requested by the board, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Chapter 58 of the Private Acts of 2012. That action deleted the old Charter that the city had established by Chapter 238 of the Private Acts of 1903 and adopted a new Private Act Charter.
But to become effective, the new Charter had to be approved by at least five of the seven Millington aldermen within 60 days after it was signed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The governor signed Private Chapter 58 on April 27, 2012, and 10 days later, the board unanimously adopted a resolution approving it.
The new Charter abolished Millington’s strong-mayor form of government and replaced it with a city manager form.
The latest resolution states that the board desires to review and make “any necessary changes or corrections” to the Charter by asking the state legislature to amend the Private Act during its 2014 session. It also states that the Charter Review Commission will be required to submit a report to the board prior to Dec. 1, so “appropriate legislation” can be prepared.
During his monthly report to the board at the May 6 meeting, City Manager Thomas Christie said he has “no basic objection” to creation of the commission, because he recognizes that there are some “flaws, inconsistencies and nebulous terms” in the new Charter that need to be “improved.” But he wondered whether “consideration of the change of government” will be included in its review.
Christie contended that Mayor Terry Jones has “made no secret” that he is “biased” against the city manager form of government. So, he said allowing Jones to appoint the commission’s members, even with the required board “affirmation,” would render its composition “suspect” and its results “flawed.”
“However, if the possibility of a change of government is not included in the commission’s review,” he noted, “then I really don’t have that much concern about the makeup of the commission or how it is to be chosen.”
During the portion of the meeting designated for public comments on agenda items, Patricia Bryant of 6856 Kay Cove said she was “extremely pleased” when the previous board voted for the city manager form of government.
“I understand that’s been a problem for some people,” she acknowledged. “But we really need a full-time professional manager to run the everyday workings of the city.”
Noting that Millington has been dealing with “a lot of problems” for many years, Bryant said she believes they are largely due to the city not having a professional manager. She also said she would not like to see any changes to the new Charter so soon after it went into effect.
“I don’t know what the problems are with the City Charter,” she concluded. “But we haven’t had it in force long enough to really see how it’s going to work and what’s best for the city.”
Because a two-thirds vote of the board will be necessary to approve any changes to the Private Act, City Attorney Charles Perkins said “pretty much of a consensus” will be required among its members to “take anything back” to the state legislature. If the commission submits its report at the board’s Dec. 2 meeting, he said that will allow it to draft whatever changes it will present to the legislature next January.
During discussion before the vote, Jones said he is not opposed to the city manager form of government, only to the way it was “implemented.” He contended that the residents should have been allowed to decide “in the beginning” whether they wanted to change the form of government.
Jones said he asked the previous board members to wait until the newly elected mayor was sworn in before beginning the search for a city manager.
“They didn’t want to do that either,” he recalled. “They wanted to have somebody in place. This Charter has been in effect since May 5, 2012, and they waited until the dead-end of it to try and hurry up and rush this through.”
Alderman Thomas McGhee said he would “like to have it understood” that the city manager form of government will not be included in the commission’s review. When Jones asked why he wanted the commission’s scope to be “limited,” McGhee said he does not believe it would benefit the city to change the form of government.
In response to a question by Alderman Bethany Huffman, Perkins acknowledged that the commission’s recommendations will not be submitted to a vote by the residents, because Millington has a Private Act Charter.
“So, whether we like how we got here before or not, or whether the people voted or not,” she said, “that doesn’t change in this at all.”
While reiterating that any proposed changes to the Charter must be approved by two-thirds of the board, Perkins recommended that at least two aldermen be appointed to the commission. He also said the commission should conduct public hearings to allow all the residents who have “an interest in the town” to make as many recommendations as they desire.
Huffman said that, regardless of what form of government Millington has, the board has “much larger issues” it needs to be addressing.
“So, other than the inconsistencies in this, I think we need to be focusing our efforts,” she noted.  “I certainly think it’s worthy to make those changes that we need to be consistent.”
When Alderman Mike Caruthers asked how he will appoint the commission members, Jones cited Perkins’ recommendation for the two aldermen. He also said he will ask all seven aldermen to suggest individuals and even post a notice on the city’s Web site, so residents can apply.
“I think it would be good to put it on the Web site to see if people are interested,” Caruthers said. “Then, have two aldermen on it.”
In response to a question by Huffman, Jones said there will be a “process” to make the appointments at a future board meeting.

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