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Charter Commission to hold public discussion

The 80 page Home Rule Charter is apparently getting some hits online by Claiborne residents who want to know just what going charter government will mean to them. Citizens will have the opportunity to hear more about the Charter immediately following the March 16 meeting of the Claiborne County Commission. Those tasked with the creation of the charter document have scheduled a meeting to publicly review its highpoints.

Meanwhile, the Charter Commission is busy plodding through just how the referendum verbiage will be laid out for voters come August. The commission spent quite a chunk of time on Feb. 4 sweating over each word that will make up the referendum summary on the ballot. The summary is limited to 200 words or less.

The commissioners decided to go with short and ‘to the point’ bullet points that succinctly outline the major sections. Although the verbiage is not yet set in concrete, the following points were created at the meeting (as of press time, the commission had scheduled a follow-up meeting on Feb. 11 to continue the process):

1) 9 distinct districts

2) 9 school board members

3) 9 district county commissioners

4) Term limits for the county mayor, sheriff and county commissioners

5) Ethics committee comprised of 9 volunteer citizens

6) Consolidate the county finance office for more efficient government

This last point will allow the county mayor, as CEO/CFO, to control all financial matters, including the budget. This would effectively wipe out the budget committee, saving the county big bucks in salaries, according to county mayor Joe Brooks, who was in the audience.

According to Section 4.05 of the Charter, the head of each county governmental department, as well as all elected county officials and clerks of court, will be responsible for furnishing the county mayor with detailed estimates of revenues and expenditures, detailed estimates of any pending or approved capital improvements and any other budgetary information requested by the mayor.

This information will be required no later than Jan. 5 of each year. A consolidated county budget will then be sent to the Claiborne Commission no later than Feb. 15, where it will be amended, approved and adopted by resolution, according to the Charter.

Section 4.01effectively hands the county mayor the executive and administrative powers of county government. That person will oversee a variety of responsibilities – one being the consolidation of services and functions through contracts between the county and municipalities, other governmental units and pubic corporations.

The county mayor would be in charge of maintaining accounting systems. This person would also have the ability to exercise veto power over any or all items in the annual budget.

The charter does provide a means to override a veto.

A somewhat interesting section of the charter allows the county mayor to appoint persons to boards, committees or commissions that he is required by law to be a member. This means, the county mayor could legally appoint an administrative or executive assistant or any head from the various county divisions to fill his seat.

According to the charter, this appointed person would have full power, including the power to vote, on issues – with the caveat that the mayor’s seat on that specific board comes with voting privileges.

Members of the Charter Commission spent some time reviewing options that, once adopted, will provide news outlets with a bit more detail than what is currently being created for the ballot summary.

The commissioners also bandied about the idea of creating a political organization Facebook page that would be devoted to any news about the proposed Charter. More than likely, the page will be used for information purposes only and will not allow public posting of information or comments.

J.D. Estep (8th district), who is the Charter Commission secretary, arrived well into the meeting, making the quorum. Commissioners Roger Poore (3rd district) and Ruby Huddleston (9th district) were absent during the meeting.

The Home Rule Charter can be read in its entirety at: www.claibornevotes.com.