At the Muscatine City Council meeting on July 21, 2016, a first reading was made of a proposed ordinance that would make changes to city code. The current processes that are being considered for change involve who directly makes employment recommendations for the Fire Chief and Chief of Police, as well as who brings recommendations to the council for appointing citizens to the city boards and commissions. Currently, these positions fall under the Office of the Mayor of Muscatine. At the direction of the council, Muscatine City Attorney Matthew Brick drafted a change to the city ordinance. The changes would place the employment review and recommendation responsibility of the Public Safety Chiefs on the City Administrator. In earlier council meetings, Councilman Phil Fitzgerald stated, “These are the only two city employees that the City Administrator doesn’t make the recommendation to hire or fire.” This change would bring that responsibility into the Administrator’s duties.
The second change to the city code involves the creation of a subcommittee for board and commission appointments, with the exception of the Library Board. Under the current structure, the Mayor nominates candidates for appointment to boards and commissions, and the city council votes to approve the candidate. The subcommittee as proposed would include two members of the city council, the Mayor, and the City Administrator or designee of the City Administrator.
At the reading, Councilman Allan Harvey asked Brick, “What was the logic behind having the committee be the Mayor, the City Administrator or designee, and two city council members?” Brick responded, “We went around and checked other municipalities, and some had one less than quorum, some had one council member, and a bunch had two. There is no legal reason requiring two council members on the committee.”
Dr. Hal Green, a retired pastor and professor, addressed the council, stating, “It appears there is a power struggle, and as a citizen, it looks bad.” Several citizens inquired about the ability for a public referendum that would allow for the citizens to vote. Brick stated, “The short answer is that there is nothing you could do to force that under Iowa law, other than electing new people who you want to have the government the way you want it.” Jean Clark addressed the council regarding the subcommittee: “If you go to nominating a committee, I get to vote for councilmen- and councilwomen-at-large. None of the rest. So if I have any say in picking who is going to be on commissions, I sure to goodness hope you only let it be the council people-at-large. The rest of you, I can’t vote for or vote you out of office.” Resident Bob Bromwell told the Voice of Muscatine, “I think the council would be surprised on the result if they put this to a community vote.”
This was the first reading of a required three of the new ordinance. The reading was approved 5-2 by the council, with councilmen Spread, Saucedo, Natvig, Fitzgerald, and Rehwalt voting “aye” and councilmen Harvey and Bynum voting “nay.” Should the ordinance change be approved by the council, the Mayor has fourteen days to veto. City Council then has thirty days to override the mayoral veto.
The meeting items 9D and 9J of the consent agenda were removed from the agenda and tabled. Item D was the recommendation to appoint Henry Marquard to the Civil Service Commission. Item J recommended that Robert McFadden and Gary Mowl be appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Councilmen Spread and Natvig expressed concerns that the Zoning Board of Adjustment would be out of the required gender balance.