Tuesday Covington’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted against making changes to the charter that would allow the mayor to vote on all measures.
The revision, which had been in the works since early last summer, would have made the mayor a member of the board and changed the requirements for meetings from “four aldermen” to “four members of the board.”
What this meant was if two aldermen fail to show up for a meeting, the mayor’s attendance will fulfill the requirements for a quorum. He will be able to vote on every motion brought before the board, instead of just breaking ties.
During Tuesday’s Finance & Administration Committee meeting aldermen discussed several options, such as giving the mayor veto power or the power to break any tie or keeping the proposed change and allowing it to go into effect after the next election in 2022.
The current charter allows the mayor to break a tie to appointment someone as department head or to a board but does not allow him to break a tie to pass an ordinance or resolution.
“My idea is to keep it as it is,” said alderman Jeff Morris, stating he didn’t want to change the requirements for a quorum.
Last week, only alderman John Edwards and former alderwoman Minnie Bommer were vocal in opposition to the proposed change, but other aldermen said constituents began calling to talk about it.
Edwards suggested the change could potentially lead to the board voting on a measure with only three aldermen and the mayor present, which is does not include the majority of aldermen.
“I got a lot of calls and they all pretty much said the same thing,” alderman C.H. Sullivan, the committee’s chair, said. “They made a compelling case.”
The proposed change was not made to solve any current problem with attendance.
The last time the board could not proceed with a meeting due to lack of quorum was prior to 2018 when, at one meeting, Edwards and former aldermen Drew Glass and Minnie Bommer were all absent. It has not been an ongoing problem.
Last week Hanson said the charter revisions came about after the termination of a department head two years ago when it was determined the code did not have consistent policies for the dismissal of department heads.
“We found several instances where the charter was inconsistent with the code,” Hanson said of the effort at revision. “There have been no significant changes made since 2006.”
The revision was drafted through the efforts of city attorney Rachel Witherington, Municipal Technical Advisor Ronnie Neill and code enforcement director Lessie Fisher. It was first proposed in October, but at that time the aldermen chose to allow the incoming board to take it up.
The revision also included changing the number of readings required to pass an ordinance from three to two, a very detailed process for filling vacancies on the board, making the process through which department heads could be terminated consistent across departments, and correcting grammatical errors.
Sullivan proposed a compromise with the revisions – removing the changes the quorum requirements, allowing the mayor to vote on all measures and reducing the number of meetings required to pass legislation and retaining the other changes.
“I think that’s a pretty good compromise,” Morris said.
The proposal passed and it will go to next Tuesday’s board meeting for approval. If the members of the board again approve the measure, the revised charter will go to Nashville and put on the calendar for the 112th General Assembly.