Council votes to revive charter amendments

Published 9:22 am Wednesday, February 15, 2012

FRANKLIN—The City Council has come up with a new plan for making changes to its charter, which it hopes the state House will approve.

The council on Monday voted 5-2 to change the charter amendments bill that passed the Senate and will be headed to the House as early as this week. The approved changes to the charter, which are the rules for governing the city, would no longer require:

■ Council members to resign for not paying city taxes

■ Council members to resign to run for mayor

■ Fining a council member for giving a direct order to a city employee.

The city hopes the changes will allow the bill to pass through a House committee that failed to pass it late last week, City Attorney Taylor Williams told council members Monday night.

The subcommittee had questions about the constitutionality of bringing criminal charges against council members who give a direct order to a city employee.

Williams said he wasn’t confident the bill would pass without the changes. The changes still allow for the removal of a council member.

Councilmen Don Blythe and Greg McLemore were the dissenters on the vote and had traveled to Richmond four times to lobby against the bill’s passage.

Blythe said they would continue to fight its passage. From the start, he has favored a citywide referendum for amending the charter.

“I think we need to table this until after the (May) election,” Blythe said.

McLemore agreed it should be tabled to avoid more “embarrassment” in Richmond.

“As it is written, it will not be passed,” he said.

Councilmen Benny Burgess and Barry Cheatham blamed Blythe and McLemore for the bill failing in the House.

“I think this bill was derailed by half-truths that were said tonight and to the committee to make them believe more was involved with this,” Burgess said.

Cheatham added that “other factors were in play” as well, questioning the committee’s motives after it passed the same type of charter amendments for Portsmouth last year.

Local attorney Jim Rainey, who authored the original amendments for a group of residents, also said he was concerned about the political motives of committee members.

“The same or similar charter amendments have been given to other cities,” Rainey said Tuesday. “I question the discrimination.”

He said he supports Williams and the council’s changes to the charter amendments.

“Hopefully the modifications to the charter changes, which were approved by council, will be better received,” Rainey said.

Sarah McCoy, a legislative assistant for state Del. Rick Morris, R-Carrollton, said Tuesday it is unclear when the House committee would take up the altered version of the Senate bill.

“We anticipate it will go back to the committee,” McCoy said. “We should have a better idea tomorrow or the next day.”