City Charter changes all but dead issue

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, February 8, 2012

RICHMOND—A subcommittee of the Virginia House of Delegates this morning voted 5-2 to table making changes to Franklin’s charter.

The issue is not dead, yet the chances are slim it will be approved this legislative session.

The same subcommittee that for a third time rejected the bill today will review a very similar bill approved a few weeks ago by the state Senate, said Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton. That review will happen on Tuesday, Feb. 14, in Richmond.

Franklin Councilman Barry Cheatham said he doesn’t expect that the subcommittee will approve the Senate version.

“It’s virtually the same bill,” Cheatham said. “I assume it will get tabled as well.”

He will not give up.

“I’m happy to bring it back for the next legislative session (in 2013),” Cheatham said.

Proposed changes to the charter, which are the rules that govern City Council, included provisions that would:

• Allow voters to boot a council member before the end of his term

• Fine a council member up to $500 for giving a direct order to a city employee

• Require council members to resign from office to run for mayor

Franklin Councilman Don Blythe, who along with Councilman Greg McLemore opposed the changes, told the subcommittee this morning that the proposal would violate his freedom of speech and the right to represent constituents.

“They’ve got a buddy system in Franklin, and I’m not a ‘yes’ man,” Blythe said. “One of the delegates said ‘there’s a dark side to this story.’ I think they saw through it.”

Cheatham feels the changes would give residents more power to remove someone from office.

“If somebody is not doing their job, we cannot recall them,” he said.

Councilman Benny Burgess said he was disappointed that Blythe and McLemore fought City Council on the changes. Burgess was also disappointed with the General Assembly.

“Charter changes are routinely approved without a lot of problems,” Burgess said. “We have other options and will look at those options to run a more effective meeting.”