Willmar City Council passes three of four city charter amendments
WILLMAR — With all eight council members in attendance Monday night, the Willmar City Council was able to act on the four proposed amendments to the city charter, brought forward by the Charter Commission.
“The charter is a very important document to the city. It’s like the Constitution of the United States, the constitution of our state,” Councilman Ron Christianson said.
To amend the charter a unanimous vote of approval from all eight council members is needed, according to state law. The council approved three of the proposed amendments regarding recalls, parliamentary rules and a one-word addition to the oath of office, but decided against adding language compelling the council to complete a vision and mission statement and strategic plan.
The vision/mission statement and strategic plan amendment failed on a 5 to 3 vote, with council members Christianson, Shawn Mueske, Tim Johnson, Rick Fagerlie and Andrew Plowman voting no. There was support from the council to establish a vision/mission statement and a strategic plan, but the majority of the council did not feel the charter was the right venue.
“I personally don’t believe the city charter is the appropriate place for this,” Plowman said.
Those who voted for the amendment, council members Audrey Nelsen, Steve Ahmann and Denis Anderson, felt putting it in the charter might force the council to sit down and do the work.
“I’m not afraid of putting this in the charter, because we haven’t done these things,” Nelsen said.
“It would accomplish something I feel strong about, which is the collaboration,” Ahmann said.
However, Ahmann also said making it an ordinance instead of putting it in the charter could be a possibility.
With the amendment failing at the council table, the only way it could be added to the charter now is if the Charter Commission would decide to bring it to the voters.
“Maybe folks, on a ballot, can determine whether that goes in there,” Christianson said.
The council approved clarifying the language regarding financial responsibility for recall committees. The amended charter now says the city is not responsible for any costs a recall committee incurs during the recall process and that a recall committee member cannot be reimbursed for serving on the committee. The city would only be responsible for the costs of any election held because of a recall.
“I believe the charter is on the right track here,” Christianson said.
“It doesn’t change the law, it makes it very clear who is responsible for paying the expenses of any recall effort,” Mueske said, who was chairman of the Charter Commission when this issue was first brought forward last year.
City Attorney Robert Scott said the amendment was not necessary but it does clarify the charter language so there is no confusion.
Christianson, who was the subject of a recall last summer, did request the Charter Commission look into the recall provisions in the charter and possibly update when a recall effort can go forward.
“I believe, before any recall should happen, it should be determined if the reasons are valid,” Christianson said.
The recall last summer was deemed invalid, but not until after the signatures were collected.
There was no discussion before the votes were taken to approve the remaining two charter amendments.
The charter will no longer list available parliamentary rules, but instead direct the council to choose an established parliamentary rule to follow at its meetings.This will allow the council to keep up with changing names and rules as they become available.
The word ‘of’ was added to the oath of office to add some clarification to the oath. It now reads “the office of (office title here) of the city of Willmar.”