Aldermen Ratify New City Charter

June 17, 2013
Dwayne Page

The Smithville Mayor and Aldermen held a brief special meeting Tuesday morning, June 18 at 7:30 a.m. at city hall to formally ratify the new charter before election day voting began at 8:00 a.m. The vote was 5-0 to adopt the new charter.


HB1363.pdf (117.79 KB)

The aldermen wanted to enact the charter before the election because it extends the length of terms of the newly elected aldermen from two years to three years. Beginning with those elected next year and with all future elections, terms of office for the mayor and aldermen will be four years.

A resolution, seeking these and other changes in the charter, was passed by the Board of Aldermen in February and sent to the Tennessee General Assembly.

Legislation amending Chapter 486 of the Private Acts of 1941 to make these changes in the charter was adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly on Friday, April 19. However, by law the aldermen had to wait at least sixty days before taking action to ratify it. Tuesday, June 18 marks the 60th day.

According to the legislation, "This act shall have no effect unless it is approved by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the legislative body of the City of Smithville, with such vote to be taken not fewer than sixty (60) nor more than one hundred twenty (120) days following the passage of the act by the General Assembly".

City Attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. recently sought an opinion from the Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) on whether the aldermen could meet election day, which is the 60th day, to ratify the new charter.

In reply, Josh Jones of MTAS wrote that " I do not think it violates Tennessee law to have the ratification vote of the governing body and the election for aldermen on the same day."

Jones based his judgment on a State Attorney General's opinion in a Springfield charter change which was decided by a public referendum. "In the (AG) opinion, the private act charter of the City of Springfield was amended by private act of the general assembly. The amendment increased the length of aldermanic terms from two to four years. However, to be ratified the private act had to be approved by referendum. That referendum was occurring during the same election as the vote to elect new aldermen. Hence, the term length of these aldermen was dependent upon the outcome of the referendum," wrote Jones.

"This parallels the situation in Smithville. The only difference being a 2/3 vote of the governing body as opposed to a referendum is required to ratify."

"In the opinion, the Attorney General stated that both elections could be held simultaneously and the fact that one affected the other was not fatal."

"Based on my reading of this opinion, I do not think it violates Tennessee law to have the ratification vote of the governing body and the election for aldermen on the same day," wrote Jones.

Under the new Smithville city charter the terms of office will be extended for the mayor and aldermen. It extends voting rights to county residents that own commercial property in the city (two persons per deed), allows property rights voting to county residents who own at least 3,500 square feet of property in the city, and allows by ordinance regular city council meetings to be held only once per month.

The new charter calls for city elections every two years, on the first Thursday in August to coincide with the county general election and state primaries. Terms of office for the mayor and aldermen will go from two to four years.
The three aldermen elected Tuesday, June 18 will serve a three year term until after the August election in 2016. From then on three aldermen will be elected to serve four year terms.

Next year under the new charter, a mayor and two aldermen will be elected on the first Thursday in August. Those elected will serve for four years.

Because the voter registration deadline has already passed, no new voters including property rights voters can register in time for Tuesday's election.

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