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January 17, 2013

Charter committee starts review process

GREENVILLE — A group of local residents, tasked with reviewing the document which regulates how the City of Greenville operates, met for the first time Wednesday night.

One of the first items to be debated by the Citizens Charter Review Committee is the process under which the Greenville City Manager can be removed.

Committee Chairman David Dreiling said the city manager should be no different than the city attorney, municipal judge or city secretary.

“If appointed by the city council, then they ought to be able to remove you by a simple majority vote,” Dreiling said, in recommending an addition to the Charter specifying as much.

The Greenville City Council voted in April of last year to amend the employment agreement of City Manager Steven Alexander to where it will take five members of the Council, rather than four, to terminate his contract.

Committee member Mike Taylor agreed with Dreiling.

“I don’t think anybody should have a super majority,” Taylor said.

Committee member Ben Collins offered a dissenting opinion, arguing against making it too easy to remove a city manager, as it might lead to a ‘revolving door” of top administrators.

“I just think it is better for the city long term,” Collins said.

The City Council voted last week to appoint the committee to review the Charter; the document which contains the rules and regulations governing how the Council, the city administration and related agencies do business.

State law allows the charter to be amended every two years and to also reflect changes in state law if needed.

“The city runs by the rules that are set by the voters,” Dreiling said at the start of Wednesday’s meeting, adding that he believed the Committee, meeting weekly, would be able to wrap up the review and present its recommendations to the City Council in time for them to be included on the municipal election ballot in May.

“It is up to the City Council whether they want to take it before the voters or discard it,” Dreiling said.

One of the other sections of the Charter which the committee discussed Wednesday concerned qualifications for Council members, only to discover that there is nothing in the Charter which regulates how to determine whether a Council member or candidate for the office meets the criteria in order to serve.

“That bothers me,” said Committee Vice Chair Sue Ann Harting. “I don’t think there is any process where the city does check.”

“There needs to be someone to verify,” Dreiling said.

The issue came up again a short time later, as the committee reviewed the section which called for the removal of a Council member who was found to be delinquent in paying property taxes, only to be told that it was a rule which was not being enforced.

“If it is in there, then why is it not being policed,” Harting asked.

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