As I have gotten (back) involved in some St Charles County issues I’m finding a disturbing trend – the Council as a whole and the Executive are ignoring the Charter requirements finding flimsy reasons to do so. Combine that with not only the Sheriff’s measure but every measure they have proposed for the ballot in November they did so in a rush and without seeking any public input other than the comment period at the TWO meetings it was before the Council.
The Charter is the County Constitution. Charter changes should not be proposed and acted upon in 30 days much less without public hearings to gather input. It’s a disgraceful way to conduct the people’s business!
Yesterday, Circuit Judge Ted House ruled that the Charter requirements for placing Charter amendments on the ballot DID have to follow the same requirements as outlined for any other ordinance passed by the Council. He made that ruling in denying the Writ of Mandamus to place the invalid smoking ban on the November ballot. Judge House understands what some on the County Council apparently don’t – the Charter actually means something and is to be followed as the people passed it!
The County Executive should have vetoed every one of the Charter amendments if for no other reason than the rush to the ballot process. The County Executive’s office apparently lacks the checks and balances the Governor’s office uses to review legislation passed by the legislature to insure that it meets the constitutional and statutory requirements. In the case of the County, the Charter and ordinance conflicts should also have been part of the review. Had that been done, the fact the Council violated the Charter by not providing required public notice would have been cause to veto the bill(s) as well as the conflicting language.
The County Executive and Council knew before they passed and signed the bill that there was a charter violation. They are claiming because it was going to the voters they didn’t have to follow the Charter. They use a St Louis lawsuit for their cover. Judge House disagreed.
The problem is that the case they use was not very thoroughly researched. If it had been, some doubt would have been created and should have been reported to the Council and Executive that the case may not hold up in defense of their violation of the Charter. That possibility might have been raised but there is no evidence that was even discussed.
The Sheriff’s proposal may be bad in its own right but it is indicative of a much larger problem that has developed in County Government. It leaves the perception that the Charter is binding when the powers that be want it to be and not so much when it gets in the way.
Regardless of the outcome of the Charter Amendments, and perhaps because of the outcome, citizens need to start demanding more accountability from their County Government to follow the Charter and not find excuses on how to circumvent it!