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Mayor says no changes, no secrets

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No changes.

That's what Covington Mayor David Gordon said he's trying to pass with a new version of the city's municipal code, which led to a recent discussion about separation of powers for the mayor and aldermen.

"I assure the board and the public that I'm not trying to have anything passed secretly or change anything," Gordon told the city's Finance and Administration committee Tuesday afternoon.

The clarification was prompted by a story and editorial in last week's issue of The Leader where aldermen questioned the mayor's motives for trying to push through what they believed were changes made to the municipal code, as well as whether or not the city would best benefit from a weak- or strong-mayoral form of government.

Specific concerns of the board as discussed during the June 19 meeting included disciplinary action they believed singles out the fire chief and committee and board appointments they believed would no longer have to be approved by the board of aldermen.

It appeared a power struggle was brewing; the mayor and board members denied that, but still discussed separating powers.

"I'm not trying to do anything underhanded, I'm not trying to gain power," Gordon said. "These documents are as they have been for several years. That's all I have to say."

The verbiage of the ordinance involving the fire chief's discipline has not been changed and Section 22 of the charter, which was passed in 2006 when Russ Bailey was mayor, states the mayor shall make appointments as authorized by law.

"It's identically the same," vice mayor and F&A committee chairman John Edwards said during the meeting of the Board of Mayor and Alderman on Thursday. "We may have went out half-cocked in the last meeting."

Some aldermen attribute the misunderstanding to the lack in communication about the new code's changes, if any, and its purpose.

"There were no changes made to ordinances, they were used to codify," the mayor said. "I'm asking you to approve the codification of ordinances that have been approved legally."

Alderman Tommy Black, who led the accusation that changes had been made, told the mayor he didn't agree with the charter in 2006 and still doesn't agree with it. He wants the board to read through the new code and make changes to it prior to its formal approval.

"Bill Scruggs, Jere Hadley and I want to change it before we adopt it," he said. "You want to do it your way, we want to do it ours, and if I can get those other three votes, we can do it our way."

As in the June 19 meeting, Black and Scruggs clarified the proposal to make chages to the code first has nothing to do with Gordon and everything to do with the future.

"My concern is separation of powers, not you personally," Black told the mayor. "Not everyone is honest and one day we'll get someone in here that we don't like who'll take advantage."

Scruggs told the committee he'd assumed changes had been made and that's why it seemed the mayor was trying to hurriedly push the new code through.

"Sometimes you have to come to the nitty gritty of things to get to the right answer, unfortunately," Scruggs said.

At next Tuesday's called meeting, which takes place at 1 p.m. in the conference room, Ronnie Neill, with the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, will be on-hand to discuss, in detail, what's changed in the proposed code.

"For clarification, there's really no changes in the mayor's powers in 2006 to now," Edwards said.

"You'd have saved a lot of breath if you'd brought that up the other day," Scruggs responded.

Edwards, however, said he was caught blindsided on June 19. He has since spent time digging through the current ordinances and codes and found no contradictions.

"Actually, I did use that breath in the last meeting, I just got bad information."

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