Council to organize charter commission

The New Prague City Council is moving forward with creating a city charter commission. At its Monday, July 1, meeting the council approved the first steps in organizing the commission.

Over its last few meetings, the council has been discussing the item, but waited to move forward until they could discuss it with City Attorney Scott Riggs of the firm Kennedy & Graven.

Riggs, who was in attendance for the meeting, has been researching the issue. He noted with the city charter commission that while New Prague has a charter it does not have a commission. Cities that have charters, which are used to define its type of government, are required by the state to have charter commissions. The organization’s duty is to meet once a year, examine a city’s charter and find if there are any changes that need to be made. The charter commission then makes a report to a lead judge. Charter commissions can have between seven to 15 members.

Council member Shawn Ryan asked how long the terms are for charter commissioners and who is in charge of the group. City Administrator Mike Johnson responded they are between two to four years. Riggs added the commission would have a chair.

Ryan was concerned about the legal costs for creating a charter commission. Riggs replied it would be about a couple hours of work.

Riggs noted that since 1990 there have been three cities in the state that dropped their charters and are now statutory cities. A statutory city may choose from three types of government. They are a mayorcouncil plan with an elected clerk (the standard plan), or an appointed clerk, or a council-manager.

Council member Pat Scripture asked if there are advantages to being a statutory city. Riggs said there are not a lot of either good or bad for being a statutory city.

Riggs said in looking over New Prague’s charter he found at least five changes that the council could make. If the council does decide to make changes, it has to be by a unanimous vote.

Ryan asked if the city would have to advertise for people to be on the charter commission. Johnson said it has been his experience that the council usually makes a list of people and then asks them to serve. Riggs said he had helped Faribault with creating its charter commission. In that city the council and the city staff created the list.

Ryan made a motion that New Prague follow Faribault’s plan to create a charter commission. New Prague would have nine commission members with two of them council representatives. Mayor Chuck Nickolay seconded the motion. It was approved 4-0, council member Mark Bartusek was absent from the meeting.

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