PITTSFIELD -- After a lengthy debate Tuesday, the City Council approved the format for a committee to review city ordinances for compliance with the newly adopted government charter.
Whether to appoint the four-member review committee, which is specified in the charter document approved in the Nov. 5 election, or wait until the new council is sworn in on Jan. 6 was disputed during a previous meeting and again on Tuesday.
Councilor at large Barry Clairmont had argued that the charter uses the word "immediately" referring to beginning the review process, and those words were echoed by former Councilor Peter Marchetti during the public comment portion of the meeting.
He gave a dictionary definition of "immediate" and urged the council "put politics aside" and create the committee. Marchetti also had served on the 11-member Charter Review Study Committee that drafted the city charter revision last year.
Councilor at large-elect Kathleen Amuso echoed current councilors Melissa Mazzeo, Kevin Morandi and others who argued that there is no urgency in forming the committee, and the new council in January should have a chance to weigh in on its make up and appointments.
Out-going Council President Kevin Sherman, who did not seek re-election, proposed approving the structure of the committee Tuesday. At the previous meeting, Clairmont had asked that Sherman seek the names of people willing to serve on the board.
City Clerk Linda Tyer also will serve, and City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan will serve as an advisor.
Sherman said he sought to "leave it flexible" but to approve the structure of the committee. As a starting point, he suggested that it be made up of three councilors and a member of the public with a background in law or government.
However, several councilors objected to the group being "top heavy," in Councilor Christopher Connell's words, with councilors.
A plethora of amendments to Sherman's proposal followed before Councilor John Krol's suggestion to break down aspects of the motion was followed.
The council then approved having up to two councilors on the committee, then up to two members of the public, approved in separate votes.
The requirement for a legal or government background for members of the public was jettisoned.
The council then debated a provision allowing a $1,500 for a clerk to keep meeting minutes and perform other duties for the group. A motion to delete that portion was eventually rejected.
And the council left in a provision for hiring a consulting firm to assist the group and to review the ordinances for compliance with state law, but only after requiring the committee to come back to the council and the mayor to seek the funding for that.
Sherman said the cost of a consultant was estimated at roughly $15,000 for such a project.
The vote to approve the committee framework was passed on an 8 to 3 vote with Morandi, Mazzeo and Anthony Simonelli opposed.
Clairmont then was nominated by Sherman to serve on the committee. Mazzeo and Morandi argued that all four names should be approved next year at one time.
Councilor Christine Yon said she admired Clairmont's willingness to serve on a committee facing a difficult challenge in wading through all the city ordinances.
Krol said he was willing to accept someone who was qualified and obviously "willing to do it."
The vote to appoint was 8 to 3 in favor, with Morandi, Mazzeo and Connell opposed.
The other appointments are expected to be made by the next council, which will have three new members.
Also Tuesday, Councilor Jonathan Lothrop praised Sherman, Paul Capitanio and Yon for their service. All were attending their last council meeting.