Update on Charter Review Commission

The next meeting of the San Juan County Charter Review Commission is Saturday, April 7 at Grace Episcopal Church in Lopez Village, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a break for lunch. Public input is welcomed and there is time set aside for comments at 10:30 a.m. and at 12 p.m. The CRC is charged with reviewing the charter to determine its adequacy and suitability to the needs of the county. Proposed changes will be put on the ballot for the public to vote on in November.

The March 31 meeting of the CRC on San Juan was a working session in which the CRC approved draft language for changes to the charter. The language addressed a three-member council elected countywide from each of three districts and an administrator who works for the council and assists them in carrying out the administrative responsibilities of the county. The CRC also adopted, by majority vote, a draft transition plan, which calls for special countywide elections in February (the primary) and April (the general) to elect the three-member council.

Members of the CRC who had attended the recent meeting of the citizens salary commission reported their observations and a committee was established to make proposals regarding the setting of elected officials salaries and to address the issue of interim salaries for council members elected in April 2013, if the proposed changes are accepted by the voters in 2012. They were also tasked with providing a draft job description for county council members that may be useful in determining appropriate salaries.

The CRC also considered, but did not adopt, a motion that would prohibit any council member from serving as administrator for two-years after the termination of their term. The charter language proposals already adopted, prohibit any council member from becoming administrator during the term to which they were elected.

Another motion considered, and referred to committee, sought to clarify the budget authority under the charter, creating the title of chief financial officer, which would serve at the will of the council and be responsible for budget preparation. The auditor would hold this title unless the council decided to assign it elsewhere. There was much discussion, but the motion was not voted on at this meeting.

The working model of the CRC includes a three-member full-time commission with legislative and administrative authority, a professional county administrator directly responsible to the elected commission, countywide non-partisan elections and maintains the powers of initiative, referendum and mini-initiative. Upcoming meetings will address the allocation of budget authority, setting the salaries of elected officials, the job description of county council members and whether to propose changes to the hearing examiner system.  Findings supporting the working-model are available at www.sanjuanco.com/committees/charterreview.

The website also contains documents considered in the review and the schedule of meetings. The April 14 meeting is at the Orcas Hotel from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Members of the public are encouraged to attend the meetings and to contact any member of the commission to voice their opinions, emails sent to crc@sanjuanco.com will be received by all of the CRC members.

– Submitted by Madrona Murphy of the outreach committee