Takoma Park council passes city manager residency amendment -- Gazette.Net


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The Takoma Park City Council voted Monday to adopt a charter amendment giving the council the ability to require the city manager to live within the city and advise the city manager during some hiring processes.

Four council members — including Mayor Bruce Williams — voted for the amendment, two voted against it and Councilman Jarrett Smith abstained.

With the two-part amendment passed, the council has the ability to create, by ordinance, a residency requirement or preference for the city manager and executive employees. It can also create a waiver for the requirement.

The council now also has the ability to provide its input at the beginning, middle and end stages of the hiring process for executive employees.

Just before the council took the vote, Smith proposed separate votes for each of the amendment’s two aspects, a motion that Schultz — who said he supported the advice component but opposed the residency requirement — seconded but it did not pass the council.

Smith later abstained to vote on the amendment to the surprise of some on the council.

“I thought it was important that we give Council member Schultz an opportunity to vote separately,” he said.

Upon realizing that his vote had passed the amendment, Williams — as a member of the majority — called for reconsideration. A second vote was taken, which ended in a 3-3-1 tie after the mayor switched his vote, and the meeting was adjourned because the amendment was considered dead.

The original vote, however, was reinstated on Wednesday. The reconsideration was deemed “improper and ineffective” because there had been no motion to reconsider, according to a memorandum from City Attorney Susan Silber and Assistant City Attorney Kenneth Sigman.

The memorandum continued that “a motion to reconsider cannot be applied to an affirmative vote adopting or amending constitutions, bylaws or other rules that require prior notice for their amendment.”

Williams said during the meeting that he felt there was “a lot of good work” and “good compromise” involved in the development of the amendment, and that he supported the advice aspect of the amendment.

He added, however, that “I have always been opposed to the idea of a residency requirement.”

“This is a great change,” said Council member Tim Male, who put forward the original form of the amendment.

Male said after the meeting that he is “pleased to create a change in the charter that creates more flexibility.”

“I’m really glad we were able to reach a compromise that we can go forward with,” said Council member Kay Daniels-Cohen.

Councilman Seth Grimes voiced his opposition to the amendment before the vote, saying not enough time and discussion had been devoted to it.

Councilman Fred Schultz said the amendment “would fly in the face of the overwhelming opinion of residents” regarding the residency requirement, but added that he supported the advice component.

At the Oct. 22 council meeting, the residency requirement for the city manager drew opposition from city residents who expressed concerns including that the requirement would limit the pool of candidates and would be valued over other requirements for the position.

At the same meeting, the council changed the amendment from one that would put the requirement in the city’s charter, to one that changed the charter but only to give the council the ability to create the requirement by ordinance.

The council will have its first reading of an ordinance that would create a city manager residency requirement at the next council meeting on Nov. 13, Williams said.

lpowers@gazette.net