McDonough District 2 Councilwoman, Sandra Vincent
Government leaders in McDonough are discussing potential changes in the municipality’s charter, amid questions surrounding the document’s validity.
The group began evaluating whether adjustments to the charter are needed, during a recent workshop meeting. City Attorney Leigh Hancher said charter amendments that were created in 2003 were not submitted to the U.S. Justice Department for pre-clearance, thereby raising concerns about the charter’s enforceability.
“The easiest way to handle this would be by virtue of another ... ordinance, to repeal that 2003 ordinance, which does have the effect of taking us back to where we were before that time,” Hancher told the council during the workshop meeting, Thursday.
Hancher said the city’s existing charter contains “direct contradictions,” which center on the duties and responsibilities of Mayor Billy Copeland, and the city administrator position, which is currently vacant.
One of those contradictions, the attorney said, is that the charter, as it was written, does not mention a city administrator at all.
“That is one of the various contradictions and problems that you have — an office that did not exist prior to the 2003 changes has been inserted into your charter,” said Hancher. “A city administrator cannot have any power, but for the fact that the city has all of the powers outlined in [the charter].”
She added that the charter, in its current form, is subject to multiple interpretations.
Hancher conceded that repealing the 2003 charter would take the city back to its 1981 document, which is the last one adopted by the Georgia General Assembly.
McDonough District 2 Councilwoman, Sandra Vincent, expressed concern about the notion of changing or repealing the current charter. “I took an oath of office which says that I will uphold this charter,” said Vincent. “I took an oath based on what is currently being said is an invalid charter. I’ve got grave concerns ... This whole issue of repealing, that frightens me.”
Vincent said the 2003 charter represents a clear intent by city officials to distinguish the city’s executive branch from its administrative branch. The councilwoman said the charter defines the city’s government, as the mayor and council.
“The job of the mayor, as the chief executive officer of the City of McDonough, is to work with the city administrator in times of executing those policies that the mayor and council have decided upon,” said Vincent. “That’s what I see in the charter ... not that the mayor has any additional power, not that the mayor makes unilateral decisions, and not that, in the absence of a city administrator, the mayor inherently inherits additional power.
“It’s problematic for me that we’ve had three [city] attorneys ..., and this is now an issue,” Vincent continued. “If we were to repeal the current charter, then, that would take us back to our prior corporate boundaries [and] we have annexed a tremendous amount of land. It would also change our terms of office from four years, to two years.”
No vote was taken at the conclusion of the council’s discussion, regarding the city charter.