Charter panel prepares for referendum

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

The Charter Revision Commission met on Tuesday, Feb. 19, to begin the process of reviewing proposed updates to the Charter, which would result in referendum questions on the fall ballot.

During the special meeting the commission voted Jon Fitzgerald to serve as chair, Jonathan Mace to serve as vice chair, and Michele Roalf to serve as secretary.

Fitzgerald explained that the items the commission will be reviewing were recommended by Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.

In this session of the Charter Revision Commission, members will be reviewing the December 2018 charter amendment that consolidated the operations of the Water and Water Pollution Control Departments. This work will include clarification of language, and the removal of any wording that makes the responsibilities and oversights unclear. This question, like all of the referendum questions on the previous ballot, was approved by Bristol voters.

The commission will be reviewing several sections of the Charter pertaining to the Bristol Police Department: section 45, which relates to the police department and the board of police commissioners, section 46A, which relates to the police department merit system, and section 46B, which relates to the chief of police.

Regarding the police department and board of police commissioners, the charter commission will be reviewing the differentiation of responsibilities between the department and the board. They have proposed that they will determine “whether the intent of any provisions are better served by the adoption of ordinances,” which would require removing the provisions from the Charter.

In reviewing the section outlining the police department merit system, charter revision commissioners will be testing procedures and weighing them, to determine whether or not the provisions have been superseded by contract, and therefore should be removed from the charter.

The commission will also review the police department job descriptions outlined in the Charter.

One item the commission will be working on is labeling the paragraphs in section 12A, “limits on successive terms for the mayor and city council,” as the paragraphs are not labeled “a,” “b,” “c,” etc.

And finally, the commission will be reviewing section 19, pertaining to the registrar of voters, and how the registrar of voters obtains a copy of the list of voters in the city.

Fitzgerald explained that at any time during the process, the public or city officials are able to attend a Charter Revision meeting to make suggestions pertaining to other Charter sections.

The commission will be holding a public hearing on Tuesday, March 5. If you are unable to attend this public hearing, Fitzgerald said the public is able to attend the rest of the meetings which have been scheduled for Tuesday, March 26, at the Bristol Public Library (5 High St.,), Tuesday, April 16, at City Hall (111 N Main St.,), Tuesday, May 7, at City Hall, Wednesday, May 29, at City Hall, Tuesday, June 18, at City Hall, and Tuesday, June 25, at City Hall. All meetings are slated to begin at 6:30 p.m.

After the commission finishes their report, it will make its way to the City Council, which will hold a public hearing on the information. Following the public hearing, the council will either vote to keep the proposed revisions or reject the report. Should any portion of the report be rejected, it will be returned to the Charter Revision Commission, which will review the suggestions.

The final report of the Charter Revision Commission is due to the city clerk on Friday, June 28. The clerk will then draft language, which will become the referendum questions. And, after the election, the answers will be sent to the Secretary of the State of Connecticut.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.