Weather Forecast


Willmar City Council OKs amendments to charter

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council will be required to adopt parliamentary rules of procedure but not necessarily those listed in a City Charter amendment.

The requirement to adopt rules is among amendments recommended by the Charter Commission after 3½ years of research and discussion, and unanimously approved by the council Monday night.

Since holding its first meeting in March 2009, the Charter Commission sought advice from the city attorney and department heads, studied the charters of other cities and held work sessions with the council to discuss and reach consensus on proposed amendments.

The charter allows amendments to be enacted either by voter approval or by a unanimous vote of all eight council members.

The council delayed a vote two weeks ago because one council member was absent when a public hearing was held on the ordinance amending the charter. The city attorney advised the council to postpone the vote.

All eight council members were in attendance Monday night and approved the amendments.

State law requires the council to vote on the proposed charter amendment ordinance within one month of the public hearing. After the council takes affirmative action, Clerk-Treasurer Kevin Halliday said, the entire proposal will be published a second time. Halliday said the amendments will be enacted 90 days from the second publication.

Mayor Frank Yanish opened the discussion, much of which centered on whether the council is required to adopt one of the five sets of parliamentary rules listed by the Charter Commission in the amended subsection dealing with procedure and rules.

Council member Ron Christianson asked City Attorney Robert Scott if the council is limited to those five sets of rules or if the council can find another book of rules that would be acceptable.

Scott said his interpretation is that the five sets are examples and that the council would not be limited to those five.

"I was hoping you'd say that,'' said Christianson.

Scott said the council cannot make up its own rules. He said the council needs to find a set of existing rules that have been published, but he did not see the council being limited to those five.

"I do think the council needs to find a published version of rules to adopt,'' he said.

Scott said the council could adopt the Minnesota Mayors Association Rules of Order for City Council, which was one of the five listed by the Charter Commission and recommended by the League of Minnesota Cities.

Christianson said a lot of the items in the Mayors Association rules refer to statutory cities, which Willmar is not. He suggested the council delete some items and adopt the balance.

Scott agreed, saying the council could adopt the Mayors rules with the exception of those that pertain only to statutory cities.

Also, Christianson asked if requiring boards, committees and commissions to adopt the same rules as the council is good or if it will bind their hands.

Other council members voiced support for rules. Bruce DeBlieck said rules are part of everybody's daily life. He said rules are not always bad and he said rules give the minority as well as the majority a voice.

"The Charter Commission has done good job researching this,'' he said. "I see no reason as to why we wouldn't move forward on it.''

Denis Anderson said the Charter Commission worked hard and was receptive to council ideas and suggestions. He said rules definitely add a level of professionalism and organization.

"Any time you have rules, you're going to be more productive and everybody will know what is expected and how to get things done,'' he said.

Jim Dokken said rules need to be in place and he said committee chairs "will have to be on top of their game for conducting the meeting.''

Rick Fagerlie said he believes rules need to be in place. "The committees and boards all have a staff person and they should be well-versed in it and be able to help the committees. I don't see a problem,'' he said.

Other amendments:

n Preamble. The current charter does not have a preamble, which the commission felt should be included. It states the people of Willmar adopt the charter in order to secure the benefits of self-government and confers powers, subject to restrictions, procedures and governmental structure.

n Form of government. It states the form of government is known as "weak mayor-council,'' which means most of the authority lies within the council itself. The elected mayor does have power and authority but is not the ultimate decision-maker.

n Vacancies. Proposed language more clearly defines what happens with council vacancies. Among other things, within 45 days after the effective date of a vacancy, the council must either appoint someone to fill the vacancy or schedule a special election within 90 days to fill the unexpired portion of the term. Currently, vacancies of more than one year before the end of the term shall be filled by election. Vacancies of one year or less prior to the end of the term must be filled by appointment.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150