By Robert Flippo
The city of Piedmont is often cited as the fastest growing city in Oklahoma and with that growth comes many changes. To reflect those changes, the Piedmont City Council established a twelve person committee to look through the city charter and suggest revisions that would be beneficial to the city.
“Basically we’ve kind of outgrown it,” City Councilman Bobby Williamson, who was a part of the Charter Revision Committee, said. “So we needed to put more guidelines in place and make it clearer.”
After a few months working together, that committee has presented a draft of its suggested revisions to the city council. The council has held two workshops, one on Monday, Oct. 14 and one on Monday, Oct. 28, to review the suggested revisions before finalizing them to be presented to the people of Piedmont to vote on.
While there have been discussions over fine point details, overall the council seems in agreement on the revisions as a whole.
The area receiving the biggest overhaul in the charter is the section dealing with the process of recalling an elected official. After a rash of recall elections in recent years, many expressed concern with the way the city charter handled recall elections.
“Because of the several recalls in the last couple years, we felt it was too easy to recall someone for any reason,” Williamson said.
The suggested revisions to the charter stipulate a council member can only be recalled under specific circumstances.
“You have to have some direct reasons, not just because you don’t like the way he voted,” City Manager Jim Crosby said.
The exact wording of the proposed change reads:
“A council member may only be recalled for willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, habitual drunkenness, incompetency, or any offense involving a moral turpitude committed while in office.”
At first glance, the wording still seems fairly vague (what exactly constitutes neglect of duty or incompetence?) but City Attorney Mike Segler said the definitions will be rooted in case law. If someone wishes to start a recall petition, the person must look to precedent in the law to determine if the council member has acted in a way that truly justifies a recall.
The proposed changes to the recall proceedings also include raising the required number of signatures on the petition for recall from 25 to 50 and requiring the City Clerk to review and approve the petition for recall before it is circulated for signatures.
“These changes will hopefully keep us from having a revolving door on the council,” Mayor Valerie Thomerson said.
Crosby said a resolution will most likely appear on the agenda at the next city council meeting for the council to call for an election so the people of Piedmont can vote on these revisions. If the council approves the resolution, the vote on the charter revisions will most likely be tied into the city’s spring elections in April, rather than holding a special election for the charter revisions alone.
The full set of charter revisions can be viewed here.