Pittsfield review panel seeks simpler wording in revised charter


PITTSFIELD -- Charter Review Study Committee members have expressed support for a shortened and simplified list of departments in a revised city charter, while rejecting a key component of the so-called "strong mayor" form of municipal government -- mayoral appointments without City Council approval.

The charter group voted Tuesday to slash in half the department head and assistant positions that now require review and approval by the council. However, in favoring continued council review the committee appeared to reject earlier calls for appointment power by the mayor alone.

Appointment power, a four-year term for the chief executive and a chief of staff or deputy mayor position were among options considered to make it easier for a mayor to choose his or her team without interference.

All votes by the charter group thus far are attempts to find a consensus on key issues and could be altered in the final report to the mayor and council. The committee hopes to finish its work on a proposed new charter in April and pass it to the council, the mayor and the state Legislature for review in time for submission to voters in November.

The committee had requested input from City Clerk Linda Tyer and Personnel Manager Karin Decker on the status of department head and other key positions. Tyer submitted a memo to the group that included more than two dozen appointed positions, some of which were vacant, some with terms considered expired, some with acting appointees, and other positions that had different or confusing designations following department reorganizations.

"This gets confusing in the abstract," committee member Michael J. McCarthy said at one point, asking how the goal of providing more administrative help in the mayor's office might be accomplished through charter revision.

After more discussion, which McCarthy and others have described as members "trying to get our heads around" the current appointment process and the positions involved, Stephen McGoldrick, the committee's study consultant, recommended a simplified process involving fewer positions.

The committee, he said, should focus on how appointments are made rather than the make-up of departments -- and also should include a standard charter provision that allows for reorganization within departments below the cabinet head level through ordinance, rather than charter amendment.

Accepted as department-head designations were police and fire chief, directors of public utilities and public services, personnel, community development, maintenance, cultural development and finance; city solicitor, building commissioner, veterans agent and the mayor's office.

The committee also began debating whether the police and fire chiefs should remain under Civil Service requirements, but it left that issue for the next meeting and will seek input on the issue from Tyer and Decker along with city union officials.

To reach Jim Therrien:
or 413-496-6247.


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