Charter Revision – Overview II: Citizens go to the polls Tuesday to revise City Charter

June 25, 2020

(Editor’s Note: This is the last of a 5-part series on the vote to revise the City Charter)

Tuesday the City of Marlow will ask citizens to vote on three changes to the City Charter.

Polls will be open June 30 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with all registered voters within the city limits of Marlow eligible to cast a ballot.

“There is a total of three propositions and the working group had some idea of changes that needed to be reviewed,” said Brian Davis, who is entering in his third year as Mayor. “As we reviewed each section, we realized that there was a need for updating in other areas.”

Proposition I

Section 2-1 pertains to councilmember qualifications. The removal of three words would serve two purposes – 1) align with state law, 2) open qualifications to more citizens.

The proposed change will be Proposition I on the ballot. If passed by the citizens, the proposition would remove three words – “and property taxpayers” – which would appear after “bona fide residents.”

The ballot question will appear this way: “Shall Article 2, Section 2-1 of the Charter of the City of Marlow be amended and revised to hereinafter read as follows? There shall be a council of five members, which shall consist of the Mayor as councilman at large and one councilman from each of the four wards of the City as the wards are constituted in this Charter or as they may hereafter be constituted by Ordinance. Only qualified electors of the City who are at least twenty-five years of age, who are not in litigation with the City nor in arrears to the city for taxes owed when elected, and who have been for one year next preceding the date of election bona fide residents of the City, shall be qualified for the offices of Mayor and councilmen. Councilmen from the wards shall also be residents of their respective wards. If the Mayor or any other councilman is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, his office shall become vacant immediately when the case is finally determined.”

A “yes” vote would approve the measure.

Though the vote would only change three words, it would bring the City Charter – originally approved by voters in 1971 – in line with state law.

“Currently, the phrase ‘property taxpayers’ would limit residents who rent property, rather than own, from running for office,” said Jeff Prater, who has served on the City Council since 2015. “State law does not require candidates to be property owners. It only requires residence in the city. It is a necessary modernization of the charter.”

Proposition II

A board that is thought to have not been used since its inception is the main issue surrounding the second proposition in the revision of the City Charter.

Proposition II would repeal four sections of the City Charter. The ballot measure reads as follows: “Shall Article 3, Sections 3-2, 3-3, 3-4, and 3-5 of the Charter of the City of Marlow relating to the Personnel Board and Personnel Board hearing procedures be amended and revised to repeal those sections in their entirety?”

A “yes” vote would approve the measure.

“We know for sure that the Personnel Board has not been called in at least the last 12 years,” said city administrator Jason McPherson. “The council keeps the board updated per the charter. There are currently three members, but they have not been convened for any employment issue.”

Section 3-2 outlines “appointments, removals” and “personnel regulations.” Section 3-3 created the Personnel Board. Section 3-4 distinguishes classified and unclassified service within the city ranks and Section 3-5 notes hearings before the Personnel Board.

All four sections can be abolished, McPherson said, allowing the internally-used employee handbook to handle all employment issues.

“With the Personnel Board removed (Section 3-3), there would be no need for Section 3-5. 3-2 and 3-4 are to be part of the employee handbook, which serves as the outline for city employment,” he added.

Proposition III

Bidding rules set up nearly a half century ago are hampering the way business can be done now, according to city leaders. It is the subject of the third proposition on the ballot.

Proposition III asks voters “Shall Article 4, Section 4-3 of the Charter of the City of Marlow be amended and revised to hereinafter read as follows? Public improvements may be made by the City Government itself or by contract. The City Council shall award all contracts for public improvements in compliance with the requirements of the Oklahoma Competitive Bidding Act codified at Okla. Stat. title 61, Second 101 et seq, as amended. All bids may be rejected and further notice and opportunity for competitive bidding may be given.”

A “yes” vote would approve the measure.

Currently the charter states that any public improvements at $1,000 or more must be publicly bid.

“In 1971, $1,000 for public improvements was a fairly significant number,” said city administrator Jason McPherson. “Today, the state bidding requirements are much higher.”

The ballot measure would change the $1,000 threshold to match the state level in the Oklahoma Competitive Bidding Act. Currently, the minimum amount required for public bidding on a public improvement is $50,000.