Vermont – The Vermont Charters Committee met on Tuesday. While the charter committee has been meeting monthly since April 2024, it has not met since November, after the general election when seven of the commission’s 10 ballot questions were canceled by voters.
Commissioner Mike Katzenmaier said they canceled two meetings because they were waiting “Things to settle down.”
Despite having a full agenda, before the meeting began, Commissioner Dale Martins spent nearly 10 minutes reading a statement he wrote. He provided background on the duties of the Charter Committee, and also detailed the amendments that the Charter Committee was trying to make that were not approved by the voters.
“Going back to the previous election, voters approved three of our recommendations, and pushed back the other seven. Why I simply sent those seven back I can’t explain,” she said. Martins said.
He said that some of the amendments were editorial in nature and definition and should not be controversial. Martins said he believes some of the difficulty in passing the amendments is due to the fact that the charter committee met after not meeting for 30 years.
“I also feel that at some point we need to take another look at the questions that were returned and perhaps resubmit them,” Martins said.
Then he said that he believed that the charter committee needed to reorganize and restructure itself, and suggested coming up with a list of officers, including the president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and two members of the board of directors who would form the executive board and could meet and make executive decisions subject to subsequent approval in case Emergency.
Katzenmaier asked if this was a movement. Martins said it was. Commissioner Alice Maddie seconded it.
Commissioner Jim Zarling said, “I see absolutely no reason for the Executive Committee to make emergency decisions. This is a deliberative body that makes recommendations for changing the charter. We meet once a month, I can’t imagine what would be an emergency that we would need a special group to make these decisions for us.”
Commissioner Robyn Boehmann said many of the boards and committees have a chain of command and that she believes it would be a professional way to run the group.
Zarling said he supported what Bowman said but reiterated that he could not imagine A.J
Scenario in which six members of the board would need to take emergency action between monthly committee meetings.
There was a timing issue with asking questions on the ballot, Katzenmaier said. He claimed that the officials “He sat on” Questions through July 9, which is the deadline for submitting ballot questions.
This was a problem. That was something to deal with without being able to come back here because we didn’t have a meeting until the following Tuesday,” he said. Katzenmaier said.
Commissioner Jay Maynard said he has three problems with the proposal. He said he was not allowing a small body, smaller than a quorum, to act in the body’s name. He said the group would also be subject to the laws of open meetings, and eventually asked why the group of four officers needed two more members.
“Wouldn’t you kind of handicap yourself by making that group six instead of four?” Maynard asked.
Then he said he couldn’t support working around the quorum requirement.
Bohman asked if Maynard could be on the Vermont Charter Commission anymore since he was now a member of the Vermont City Council.
“You’re expressing a lot of opinions and we’re going to vote on something, so if you’re not supposed to be here, you shouldn’t be expressing your opinion,” Bohman said.
Then Maynard read a portion of Minnesota law, Section 410.05, which governs the appointment of charter committee members. in part “Unless otherwise provided by the charter, no person shall be disqualified from serving on a charter committee by reason of having held any other elected or appointed office than a judge. The charter may provide that members of a city’s governing body cannot serve on a charter committee.”
The conversation returned to the topic of whether to create an Executive Council. Commissioner Chuck Omphig said he believes they should go with four officers to set the agenda and have the power to call a private meeting if needed.
“Otherwise, we can’t do anything without going through the whole board,” Omvig said.
A proposal to amend the proposal was put on the table and dropped from four officers and two board members to four officers.
Commissioner Terry Anderson requested a vote on the original proposal. Failed. A new proposal to add a cashier for officers was made by Omvig and seconded by Zarling.
The motion was passed unanimously.
The Charter Committee then moved on to the next item on the agenda which was the discussion of the budget.
Katzenmaier asked those present to read Chapter 7.12, Accounts and Reports, in their charter handbooks.
“Last year, up until August, we had received no information from the city on budget balances or adequacy and suddenly we had a little byline, typed, saying ‘This is what we spent in attorney fees,’” Katzenmaier said.
Then he said that last October the charter committee had been told it had overspended its budget. Later that month, some members of the Charter Committee spent money on an advertisement to run in Photo Press, and since there was no money left in the budget, it was paid for with private money.
Anderson made a proposal that the money distributed in the past year outside the budget funds in particular be paid from the charter committee budget for this year.
“I think we need to get it out of our budget this year and get it right,” he said. Anderson said.
Maynard said he has two concerns. One is that they will pay for 2024 expenses with the 2023 money and the other is that the City Council has specifically said it will not pay for these expenses.
“So now you are looking forward to making a circuit board,” Maynard said.
Omphig said he thinks there was a problem with last year’s budget that money came out of it for each of the commissioners to have a city charter tie-in in it.
Attorneys’ fees also shouldn’t be charged, Martins said, because the charter says all agencies must have access to a legal officer.
“This legal officer still has to be paid,” Maynard said.
Boehmann said she feels the charter committee’s budget has been improperly depleted by a city employee “throttle” So that the Charter Committee could not ask legal questions.
“Accusing us with material that was grossly inappropriate and that was done deliberately to suffocate us,” Bohman said.
The Charter Committee closed the debate and took a vote on the proposal on the table to reimburse privately funded expenses from last year, in the amount of $375 and $90.
The motion passed by 6 yes votes, 3 no votes, and 2 abstentions.
After an hour of meeting, the Board of Directors voted to include the remaining six items on the agenda, all of which were under new business.
Several members left, but it was pointed out that the meeting had not been formally adjourned and that the officers had not been elected.
Katzenmaier was elected president, Umphig vice president, Barry Altmann secretary, and Boehmann treasurer.