Council mulls make-up of new city committees

Posted 1/28/09

As part of Centennial’s continuing efforts to implement its new home-rule charter, the city council is considering its options as it establishes …

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Council mulls make-up of new city committees


As part of Centennial’s continuing efforts to implement its new home-rule charter, the city council is considering its options as it establishes several new committees mandated by the governing document.

The charter, a sort of municipal constitution, was drafted last year by the elected 21-member Centennial Charter Commission and approved by voters in June by a greater than 2-to-1 margin. The charter allows the city greater opportunities for self-governance under the Colorado Constitution and establishes some new governmental entities.

At the Jan. 21 city council meeting, city leaders debated the merits of excluding elected political leaders from the required election commission, which will assist in overseeing city elections, though the charter does not specifically describe the commission’s duties.

According to a proposed ordinance under consideration by the council, the commission would assist in establishing policy for city elections that are not held in conjunction with Arapahoe County and would recommend any possible changes in city districting, among other functions.

The city council would appoint residents to serve on the commission. Elected city officials, relatives of candidates and city employees would not be permitted to serve on the body.

The draft ordinance prepared by the city attorney’s office would also exclude registered agents of candidate committees, issue committees and political organizations.

In what turned out to be a controversial move, some political party activists, such as precinct committee members, county assembly delegates and vacancy committee members, also would be prohibited from serving on the election commission.

“The goal here really was to try to, as much as possible, cloak this with some transparency and some neutrality,” assistant city attorney Maureen Juran explained to the city council. “[We wanted to] take these people who are really vested in a pending political issue and ask them not to be serving on this commission during that timeframe.”

Because city elections are nonpartisan, District 1 Councilmember Rick Dindinger complained that such a provision would unnecessarily exclude a large number of qualified city residents.

“Whether or not someone is affiliated with a particular party, even if they’re an elected precinct committee person or delegate, does not mean they’re going to let that influence how they would judge a municipal nonpartisan election,” he said.

District 3 Councilmember Rebecca McClellan suggested the city should consider designing its election commission the same way Arapahoe County recruits a mix of election judges from both major parties to oversee voting.

McClellan’s fellow District 3 representative Patrick Anderson countered that it would be better for the council to judge each politically involved commission applicant on a case-by-case basis.

“I think we can use our judgement to determine whether somebody is too heavily involved or maybe too partisan,” Anderson said, suggesting McClellan’s idea rang of a quota system.

According to the draft ordinance, the five-member election commission would include the city clerk and four registered voters who live in Centennial. Members would serve three-year terms.

Per the charter’s eventual elimination of the elected city clerk, an appointed city clerk would assume a post on the commission starting in January 2010.

The charter also eliminates the elected treasurer, beginning next year — a controversial change that prompted some discussion of the make-up of the audit committee, which, according to the charter, will provide oversight of city finances.

“I believe that between now and the termination of that position that the [elected] treasurer should be on that committee,” District 4 Councilmember Todd Miller said.

Because of the charter’s wording, if appointed to serve on the audit committee, outgoing treasurer Susan Bockenfeld would technically be one of two designated citizen representatives on the body.

The charter mandates that the audit committee comprises the mayor, a councilmember appointed by the city council, the city manager, the finance director, a staff member appointed by the finance director, the city attorney and two city residents with business experience.

The other new city committees to be instigated by the council per the charter are a city investment committee and a budget committee.


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