Petoskey City Council members held off Monday on any actions toward extending future term lengths for city officeholders, opting instead to let next year’s council membership take up the recently discussed idea if desired.
“I would probably not be inclined to make a decision tonight,” said Mayor Ted Pall, who along with council members Bob Johnson and Bill Atkins will soon be concluding his term in office. “I think the new council can probably handle the decision.”
Last month, Pall proposed the idea of longer term lengths, suggesting extension of future mayoral terms from one year to two, and council terms from two years to three. An alternative suggestion, offered by council member Ron Marshall, was to keep council terms at two years and switch to a three-year term for the mayor.
Officeholder term lengths are established by the city charter, and altering their duration would require local voters to approve a charter amendment. Pall initially suggested pursuing a ballot proposal for the November 2012 election.
A three-fifths vote of the council would be needed to start the process toward a ballot proposal.
Prior to Monday’s meeting, city legal counsel had prepared possible ballot language for both proposals that have been offered for altering term lengths.
Some on council believed the timing for a public vote was one item needing to be explored further.
State law requires that a proposed amendment “be submitted to the electors of the city at the next regular municipal or general state election, or at a special election, held not less than 60 days after the proposal of the amendment.”
If council members took immediate action — and Michigan’s attorney general and governor gave the needed approvals to the proposal before presentation to the voters — the ballot question would thus need to appear on the ballot at the time of the regular May school election, based on the state’s election calendar used in recent years. But city clerk-treasurer Al Terry noted that recent legislation appeared to have moved school elections to November, and added that at least a couple of additional days would be needed to confirm how this would affect ballot-placement needs for the charter amendment.
Some on council noted that they’d like to see any amendment proposal be presented to voters in an election that’s likely to draw high voter participation.
As he’d noted in November, council member Bill Atkins said he’d prefer to seek out citizen involvement in pursuing any charter amendment, designating a committee to explore the matter rather than simply seeking a ballot question at the council level.
On Monday, the Petoskey City Council entered closed session, at the request of city manager Dan Ralley, to discuss the city manager’s yearly performance evaluation.
The final evaluation form, released after the council’s discussion, showed satisfactory ratings for Ralley on all performance criteria.
Council members Bill Atkins and Tom Postelnick did not attend the closed-session discussion, mayor Ted Pall noted afterward.
Contacted today, Atkins said he knew that the other members attending would provide the needed quorum, and that “it was just getting late.” He added that “I didn’t think my input would be useful.”
Postelnick said today that he had initiated a complaint to the state against the city, one which would involve the manager. And until he gets more information on the process the state follows with that complaint — the details of which he would not discuss — “I just thought at this time ... that it wouldn’t be fair to the city manager to evaluate him at this time until I have more information.”