Gainesville City Council combed through its city charter, updated to reflect the new elected mayor position, with The Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia during a Thursday retreat.
“As an objective, neutral party and an academic who has read hundreds of charters and written 50 of my own ... I think this is a good charter,” said Murray J. Weed, public service associate with the institute. “I’m happy with it, as an outsider looking in.”
He went on to make some suggestions and other comments on the document.
“I think you guys use resolutions a lot, maybe a little too much in my opinion,” Weed said.
“Not that there’s anything illegal about that, but ... if it’s going to be like a law, it should be an ordinance. If it’s something of a shorter duration or something with a shorter time frame, resolutions are fine.”
One part of Weed’s presentation that stirred some talk among council members was a charter change that makes the mayor responsible for recommending board appointments to the council, which has the deciding vote.
Currently, council members recommend appointees from their respective wards to fill seats on boards, and the council votes on whether to approve appointments.
Mayor-elect Danny Dunagan said he expects he will ask for suggestions from council members on possible appointees and “I’ll choose from those.”
And discussion about a possible appointee’s qualifications needs to be aired publicly, not in an executive, or closed-door, session.
“You’ve got to trust your council member to recommend somebody who will do a good job,” Dunagan said of the effort to find suitable candidates. “And there’s also some ordinances (that help in screening), like if you owe past taxes or some outstanding debt to the city, you can’t serve on a board.”
Overall, he said he thought the charter “was in great shape.”
“We worked very hard on it when I was on the council and got a lot of input from the (Georgia Municipal Association) and from our and other attorneys,” Dunagan said.
The charter change was required when the city decided to go to an elected mayor. The new charter went through the state legislature in 2012 and eventually was signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
For decades, the position has been largely ceremonial, rotated every two years among the five members.
Voters approved directly electing the mayor in a nonbinding resolution in 2009. Dun-agan, who previously served as Ward 1 council member and mayor as part of the rotation, was elected to the job in November.
One major change is the mayor, unlike in the past, will not vote on issues unless there is a tie or a fourth “yes” needed for approval.
The position carries a four-year term and base pay of $500 per month, an expense allowance of $100 per month and per diem of $125 per meeting up to 10 meetings per month.
Council members receive a base pay of $400 per month, an expense allowance of $75 per month and the same per diem as the mayor.