Revised, Ready, and Waiting

By , May 10, 2009 9:30 am

A few months ago when the revision process began, there was a public hearing. Subsequently, at every meeting of the Charter Revision Commission, the public have had the opportunity to vent voice their concerns for a few minutes. During the regular meetings, less than a handful of people bothered to show up to express their opinions. Predictably, some have already begun to complain about the outcome. This kind of kvetching into the abyss is purposeless and would be more effective if directed to those who have at least a semblance of control over the matter. Draft revisions are being made available beginning on Monday and can be picked up in the Town Clerk’s Office and in City Council Offices, as well as online. Since there are actually some major suggested changes, I do think it’s worth taking the time to read through and show up at the public hearing if Hartford’s politics even remotely matter to you. This Wednesday (May 13th) a public hearing will be held at 6pm in the Hartford Public Library.

Here is a preview of some of the revised sections:

Composition of the Court of Common Council. (it is changing!)

The Council shall consist of thirteen members, consisting of one member elected from each of five Districts and eight elected at large. The Council shall designate such council districts by number. The maximum number of at-large members of the Council who may be members of the same political party shall reflect the requirements of the General Statutes with respect to minority party representation.

The following section explains how the districts will be determined, providing an idea about why there is this desire to switch from At-Large to Hybrid.

Sec. 6 Establishment of Districts for Court of Common Council.
(a) No later than thirty (30) days following the completion of reapportionment of the General Assembly, as required by the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, as further set forth in the General Statutes, the Council shall appoint a districting commission consisting of seven (7) to fifteen (15) members, no more than fifty (50%) percent of whom shall be members of the same political party (“Appointment Date”). The districting commission shall report to the Council no later than seventy (70) days following the Appointment Date, setting forth the recommended boundaries of the five (5) Council districts.

(b) Council districts shall be:

(1) of substantially equal population and otherwise consistent with all federal and state constitutional and statutory requirements;

(2) to the extent possible, consistent with preceding, maintain the integrity of recognized neighborhood planning areas;

(3) geographically contiguous and compact; and

(4) to the extent possible consistent with the preceding, consistent with existing legislative districts.

(c) The districting commission shall be supported in its work by appropriate City staff which shall have available to it the necessary support to facilitate the work of the commission and well as such other professional assistance (subject to appropriation) as it shall choose.

(d) The districting commission shall hold a public hearing at least one week before it submits its report to the Council, and shall make a tentative map of its proposed districts available to the public electronically, in hard copy available at the City Clerk’s office, and by causing it to be published in one or more newspapers of daily circulation in the City at least three (3) days before the public hearing. The districting commission may modify the tentative districts before submitting its report to the Council.

(e) The Council shall vote on the establishment of Council districts within three (3) weeks of its receipt of the districting commission’s report. The Council may amend the district boundaries recommended by the districting commission before approving districts, but the districts approved by the Council must comply with the standards of subsection (c) of this section. A resolution approving districts must be affirmatively supported by a majority of the members of Council, and shall not be subject to veto by the Mayor.

If the Council shall fail to approve the Council districts or take no action with respect thereto within the time limit established by subsection (e), the recommendation of the districting commission shall be deemed approved by the Council.

Transition Provision. No later than thirty (30) days following the adoption of this Charter Amendment the Council shall appoint a districting commission as set forth in §6(a). The date of appointment in this Transition Provision shall constitute the “Appointment Date” for purposes of apportioning the Council Districts for the 2011 general municipal election. In all other respects the procedures set forth in §6(b)-(f) pertaining to the apportionment of the Council Districts shall proceed from the Appointment Date established in this transition provision and shall be in full force and effect. In no event shall the apportionment exceed the time permitted in C.G.S. §9-169f.

Terms of Office of Elective Offices (how the transition from At-Large to Hybrid will be managed)

(a) Term of Office. All elected officials shall hold their respective offices for a term of four (4) years, as set forth below. The term of office for the elected members of the Board of Education is set forth in §4(§b)(3), below, and, in Chapter IX of this Charter.

(1) Transition Provision Pertaining to Members of the Council Elected At-Large on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2011. Commencing on January 1, 2012 the members of the Council elected at-large on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November shall hold office for a term of two years.

(2) Transition Provision Pertaining to Members of the Council Elected At-Large on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2013. Commencing on January 1, 2014 and quadrennially thereafter, the members of the Council elected at-large on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November shall hold office for a term of four years.

Date of Election of Elective Officers. Except as hereinafter provided:

(1) On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2011 and in the odd numbered years thereafter as the term of office shall fall, the electors of the City shall elect, in accordance with the provisions of the General Statutes and the applicable provisions of this Charter the following officers: (i) Mayor; (ii) Members of the Council elected from the five Districts; (iii) City Treasurer; and (iv) Constables.

(2) On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2013 and in the odd numbered years thereafter as the term of office shall fall, the electors of the City shall elect, in accordance with the provisions of the General Statutes and the applicable provisions of this Charter the Members of the Council elected At-Large.

(a) Transitional Provision Pertaining to Members of the Council Elected At-Large to the term set forth in Chapter II, §4(a)(1). On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2011, the electors of the City shall elect, in accordance with the provisions of the General Statutes and the applicable provisions of this Charter the Members of the Council elected At-Large.

Because there was apparently widespread confusion about a ballot item granting a pay raise to the Council, language was included to deal with this in the future.

The ballot questions shall include a delineation of the current level of compensation and the increased compensation.

Appointive Boards and Commissions Required by the Charter.

The following Boards and Commissions shall be established, in the Ordinances, subject to the provisions and powers enumerated in the General Statutes, Special Acts and this Charter:

(a) Internal Audit Commission. Said Internal Audit Commission and a unit or department, as set forth in §2-41(a) of the Municipal Code, as amended or otherwise modified by ordinance, shall have authority to examine into all matters relating to the integrity, efficiency and efficacy of the government of the City, including the Board of Education. The Commission (and the head of the internal audit unit) shall give due consideration to requests from the Council or any member thereof and from the Mayor in establishing and modifying the work plan of the Commission or its staff.
(1) Membership. Notwithstanding the provisions of this Charter pertaining to the establishment of Commissions, said Commission shall consist of three members, no more than two of whom are members of the same political party. The members of the Commission shall have professional experience in the fields of accounting, management or financial analysis. One member of the commission shall be appointed by majority vote of the Council; one member of the commission shall be appointed by the City Treasurer; and one member of the commission shall be appointed by majority vote of the Council, from two candidates selected by the ten (10) largest owners of taxable property as determined by the most recent grand list in accordance with a procedure to be established by ordinance.

(2) Annual Internal Audit Budget. The internal audit commission shall adopt and forward to the Mayor, in accordance with the procedures and timetable established for other City departments, a proposed annual budget. The Mayor’s budget shall include, and the Council shall appropriate, for support of the internal audit unit at least the amount necessary to maintain the staffing of the unit as approved in the previous annual budget unless the commission requests a smaller amount.
(3) Internal Audit Unit. The Ordinance shall include the provision of employees of an Internal Audit Unit in numbers reasonable to conduct the examinations required by the Commission. The Commission may authorize the employees or consultants of the unit to cause such examinations as permitted by this provision of the Charter and the pertinent implementing ordinances. Said internal audit unit shall report to and be under the direction of the Commission as further set forth by ordinance.

(i) Head of the Internal Audit Unit: Qualifications. The head of the Internal Audit Unit shall be appointed by the Commission. The head of the internal audit unit shall be a member of the classified service, shall be certified as an internal auditor or fraud examiner and shall have an advanced degree in accounting, business management, or a related field as set forth by the commission or by ordinance.

(ii) Reports of the Unit. All reports of the internal audit unit, including any responses thereto, shall be public and shall be submitted to the Council and to the Mayor.

(iii) Procedures. The Council shall by ordinance specify the procedures the internal audit unit shall follow, including a requirement of a written response by any individual or the head of a department, agency or office cited in an internal audit report.

(b) Committee on Abatement of Taxes and Assessments. Said Committee on Abatement of Taxes and Assessments, shall have and exercise all the powers pertaining to (1) the abatement of taxes and assessments heretofore or hereafter conferred by law on the Council or any committee, board or officer of the City; (2) the abatement of taxes and assessments on dwelling units constructed by a private, nonprofit corporation for the public purpose of providing relocation housing under §221 of the National Housing Act, as amended. Such abatements shall reflect the amounts necessary to maintain rent levels for such housing within the financial reach of families to be relocated, as approved by the Council, and such abatements shall be subject to review annually.

Membership. Notwithstanding the provisions of this Charter pertaining to the establishment of Commissions, said Committee shall consist of the City Treasurer, Director of Finance and Corporation Counsel.

(c) Board of Assessment Appeals. There shall be a Board of Assessment Appeals. Said Board shall be the successor to the Board of Tax Review and shall have all the powers of said Board of Tax Appeals as set forth under the General Statutes, special statutes or the Ordinances, as may be amended from time to time.

(1) Membership. Each member of the board of assessment appeals at the effective date of this Charter shall continue in office until the expiration of the member’s term and until a successor is duly appointed and qualified. The board of assessment appeals shall consist of three (3) persons appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council, one (1) member to be appointed each year for a term of three (3) years, each of whom shall be selected for their knowledge of taxation and real estate values.

(2) Powers and Duties. The board of assessment appeals shall have the same powers and perform the same duties as boards of assessment appeals of towns. The board of assessment appeals shall act in accordance with the provisions of the General Statutes applicable to the board of assessment appeals of towns.

(d) Planning and Zoning Commission. Said Planning and Zoning Commission shall be comprised of individuals with skills and knowledge in related fields such as planning (including current involvement in the field), architecture, landscape architecture, real estate, or law. Said Commission shall have all the powers and duties of both a planning commission and a zoning commission under the General Statutes and, upon the effective date of this provision, shall supersede the commission on the City plan as the City’s planning commission and the Council as the City’s zoning commission. All ordinances and regulations adopted by the Council related to planning and zoning prior to the effective date of this provision shall continue in full force and effect until modified, repealed or superseded in accordance with this Charter and the General Statutes. The decisions of the planning and zoning commission shall be consistent with the plan of conservation and development, as required by the General Statutes, unless the commission concludes that changes in circumstances since the adoption of the plan of development support a deviation from the plan. The commission shall set forth the basis for any deviation from the plan of development in its decision.

(1) Duty to plan. It shall be the duty of the commission to prepare and recommend from time to time, as required by the General Statutes, but no less than every ten (10) years, a plan of conservation and development for the City or any portion thereof. Said plan shall include all requirements of the General Statutes pertaining to such plans and any other criterion set forth by the commission in the exercise of its zoning function.

(2) Duties in relation to capital budget. The commission shall prepare and revise annually a program of public improvements for the ensuing five (5) years and shall submit annually to the Mayor, at such time as the Mayor shall direct, its recommendations of such projects to be undertaken in the ensuing fiscal year and in the full five-year period.

(3) Certain ordinances to be referred to planning and zoning commission. Every ordinance or resolution of the Council relating to the location of any street, bridge, boulevard, esplanade, square, park, playground, playfield, aviation field, parking space, public building, or to the facilities or terminal of any public utility, shall be at once referred to the planning and zoning commission and final action shall not be taken on any such ordinance or resolution until the commission shall have reported thereon, provided the Council may establish by Ordinance a period of not less than sixty (60) days within which the commission shall file its report with the City Clerk and if no report is filed within such period the approval of the commission shall be assumed.

(e) Zoning Board of Appeals. There shall be a Zoning Board of Appeals, which shall hear appeals as set forth in the General Statutes. The chair of the board and in the chair’s absence the acting chair shall have the power to administer oaths and compel the attendance of witnesses. Any person who fails to obey a lawful subpoena of said chair or acting chair shall be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100.00) or the maximum amount set forth in the General Statutes and enacted by ordinance or imprisoned not more than thirty (30) days or both.

(1) Violation, punishment and remedies pertaining to Zoning Regulations. Zoning regulations as provided in this Charter shall be enforced by such employees of the City as the Council may, by ordinance, designate. Violations of such regulations shall be punished and such other remedies shall be available as provided in §§8-12 and 8-12a of the General Statutes and any amendments thereto.

Ethics Commission

(f) Ethics Commission. Said Ethics Commission shall have the authority as permitted by the General Statutes to investigate allegations of unethical conduct, corrupting influence or illegal activities levied against any official, officer or employee of the City. Each officer and employee of any such department, institution, board, commission or agency shall assist said Board of Ethics in carrying out the provisions of this section.

(1) Membership. Said Commission shall consist of five (5) members, no more than three of whom are members of the same political party, as follows: three members shall be appointed by the Council by a majority vote of its membership following recommendation by the Council President; one member appointed by the Mayor; and, one member shall be appointed by the City treasurer, each for a term of five (5) years. The Commission shall choose a chair and such other officers as it may desire for a term of two (2) years in duration.

(2) Rules and Regulations. Following a public hearing, the Ethics Commission shall adopt and promulgate reasonable rules and regulations for the administration of pertinent provisions of this Charter and the Ordinances which may be enacted hereunder. Thereafter any additions, modifications or changes in said rules and regulations shall, upon approval by the Ethics Commission, be in effect unless disapproved by the Council, within sixty (60) days from the date received by the Council. The rules and regulations so adopted and promulgated and all amendments thereof shall be made available to any elector of the City upon request to the Ethics Commission.

(3) Advisory Opinions. The Commission shall render advisory opinions to the Council or to any of its committees and to officials, members and officers of the City pursuant to written requests or upon its own initiative and shall make public such advisory opinions making such deletions as may be required to prevent disclosure of the identity of the officer, employee or official involved.

(4) Public Hearings. The Ethics Commission shall have the power to conduct public hearings concerning the application of this chapter and the rules and regulations thereunder, including, but not limited to procedures for the exercise of its authority to issue subpoenas or subpoenas duces tecum, as permitted by the General Statutes.

(5) Additional Powers. The Council may expand the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission in a manner consistent with the General Statutes.

(6) Restrictions on Membership. No person who has:

(i) served within the previous three years as a public official (other than a member of the Ethics Commission, the Connecticut State Ethics Commission, Citizens Ethics Advisory Board or State Elections Enforcement Commission); or,

(ii) served within the previous three years as a political party officer; or,

(iii) had a spouse served in the positions set forth in sub-paragraphs (i) or (ii), above;

(iv) had a contract or otherwise conducted business with the City within the previous three years, either as an individual or in any business (for profit or not for profit) in which the person or a member of his immediate family is a director, office, owner, limited or general partner, beneficiary of a trust or holder of stock constituting five (5%) per cent or more of the total outstanding stock of any class or a five (5%0 per cent share of the Business,

shall be appointed to membership on this Commission. For purposes of this subsection the term “public official” means an individual who holds or has held a state, district or municipal office as defined in section 9-372 of the General Statutes; but shall not include a justice of the peace or a notary public and the term “political party officer” means an officer or member of a national committee of a political party, state central or town committee, or any person employed by any such committee for compensation.
(7) The members of the Commission shall adhere to the following code of ethics under which the members shall:
(i) Observe high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the Commission may be preserved;
(ii) respect and comply with the law and conduct themselves at all times in a manner which promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Commission;
(iii) be faithful to the law and maintain professional competence in the law;
(iv) be unswayed by partisan interests, public clamor or fear of criticism;
(v) maintain order and decorum in proceedings of the Commission;
(vi) be patient, dignified and courteous to all persons who appear in Commission proceedings and with other persons with whom the members deal in their official capacities;
(vii) refrain from making any statement outside of a Commission proceeding, which would have a likelihood of prejudicing a Commission proceeding;
(viii) refrain from making any statement outside of a Commission proceeding that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the member or employee should know that such statement would have a likelihood of materially prejudicing or embarrassing a complainant or a respondent;
(ix) preserve confidences of complainants and respondents;
(x) exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of the Commission;
(xi) represent the Commission competently;
(xii) recuse themselves from participating in any proceeding or matter undertaken pursuant to this Charter and any ordinances adopted with respect thereto that involves the person who appointed such member to the Commission;
(xiii) not represent any business or person, other than himself or herself, before the Commission for a period of one year following the end of such member’s service on the Commission; and
(xiv) not accept employment or otherwise become engaged with a business or person that appears before the Commission for a period of one year following the end of such former member’s service on the Commission.
Appointive Boards and Commissions Required by Ordinance.
The Council may establish, by ordinance, such Boards and Commissions as are necessary to effectuate the powers and purposes of the City as enumerated in the General Statutes, Special Acts and this Charter.

Ethical Obligations for Corporation Counsel

Ethical Obligations. In discharging the foregoing duties, the Corporation Counsel, as well as each attorney employed by the Office of the Corporation Counsel, shall comply with all laws, codes, regulations, and other rules and procedures governing the conduct of attorneys licensed to practice before the courts of the State of Connecticut, including, but not limited to, the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct. In particular, the Corporation Counsel and each attorney employed by the Office of the Corporation Counsel shall be particularly mindful of the obligations imposed by Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct., Rule 1.13, Organization as Client.

Board of Education

There shall be a Board of Education consisting of nine (9) members five (5) appointed by the Mayor and four (4) elected on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2005 and quadrennially thereafter. In addition to the foregoing, the Mayor shall serve and shall serve solely in the capacity as a non-voting ex officio member of the Board of Education and shall not serve as Chairperson of the Board.

If you’d like to compare this to the current (old) language of the charter, the materials are posted on the Hartford Charter Revision Commission website.

8 Responses to “Revised, Ready, and Waiting”

  1. lobonick says:

    Are they increasing the number of members on the city council ?? Is the plan to spend more money on this ? I understand that the City Council members barely make a salary so it won’t cost that much. Why the increase in number (that is if I read the ordinance correctly) ?

    As far as the Ethical Obligations for Corporation Counsel, there are no teeth to this ordinance ? Basically just repeating the Rules of Professional Responsibility which supposively the Corporation Counsel already knows.

  2. kerri says:

    They thought that the ethics language added teeth. The term “teeth” might even have been used during a meeting, if I remember correctly.

    They are increasing the city council. They are going to maintain a number of At-Large (citywide) councilors, and add some who represent districts. There are a number of arguments for this. You can see some discussion of that here:
    http://ctlocalpolitics.net/realhartford/2009/02/05/not-going-to-cut-down-the-at-large/

  3. lobonick says:

    No teeth in the ethics language for the Corporation Council. What if he doesn’t do that ? What are they going to do ? Again he is obligated already by the Rules of Professional Conduct to do everything that is stated in the new ordinance. If a lawyer fails to meet the Rule of Professional Conduct, a party can always bring an official grievance before the Statewide Grievance Committee. Maybe they are setting the table for that.

  4. kerri says:

    I’m really not sure. Maybe someone who is serving on the commission can comment on this.

  5. lobonick says:

    No need for anybody on the commission to comment. The Corporation counsel language is typical boilerplate type stuff. I am sure that Corporation counsel gets the message.

    A lot of language on zoning as well.

  6. lobonick says:

    charter meeting went well. a few speakers. some comments on the mayor gaining a more permanent spot on the board of education.

    the entire meeting lasted about 15 minutes.

  7. kerri says:

    Thanks for the update, Nick. Was there any call for adding more teeth to the ethics component?

  8. lobonick says:

    i spoke (not very well by the way) concerning corporation counsel and the need to keep an eye on outgoing legal fees especially the hiring of outside counsel (which probably starts at $200 an hour at least). the way it was explained in the document that was handed out at the meeting was that various parties will have the ability to get outside counsel opinions (re: city council, board of ed, and corporation counsel). outside counsel was huge inflated part of the budget the last couple of years (somehwat related to Mayor Perez’s situation i assume). in the future. outside counsel should be a moment of last resort.

    forgot to bring up the ethics issues. i did mention that corporate counsel had become an issue between city council and the mayor.

    one note on the mayor. he has done a strong job of helping bring development cash into the city (re: adrien’s landing, hartford 21, the albany avenue YMCA, and other projects). the issue now is filling some of the vacant commercial property in downtown. hartford 21 has vacant commercial property for almost two years now !!! also forget the Front Street project if it is never going to happen. it has already burned so much cash it is an embarrassment.


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