The Keene City Council last week took its first formal steps toward untangling the municipal charter.
At the council’s Thursday meeting, members decided to hold workshops to discuss areas they believe need clarification or rethinking.
Provisions that address council members’ residency requirements and rules for evaluating staff members’ performance, also need work.
In Councilman Donny Gore’s case, a ruckus ensued last year when someone pointed out that he didn’t live in the ward in which he ran for office.
And the charter has, in recent months, proven problematic, as council members and city staffers thrashed out a series of highly charged personnel issues.
“It may address the chain of command — who’s in charge of the city,” Gore said. “I’d like to re-address the hiring of our police officers and let the police chief hire his staff.
I feel Bill should be able to fire anyone,” Gore said, referring to City Administrator Bill Guinn. “Bill is really the boss.”
However, under the status quo, the council must micromanage things that should really be handled by administrators, Gore said: signing off on individual decisions such as police-department hires, for example.
“The charter was written and adopted in 1999,” Dale Janes, a council member and former mayor pro-tem, said. “It is quite outdated.”
The council will start work on identifying weak spots in the charter in earnest at its Feb. 13 meeting with a 6 p.m. workshop.
Regardless of what does or does not get changed, Janes said the real work will be handled by a committee, not the council.
However, one or more council representatives — perhaps the mayor, Janes said — may well be a committee member, Janes said.
Provided the committee gets things handled in a timely manner, voters would see the updated document on the November 2014 ballot.
Gore is ready to get moving.
“We got the ball rolling,” Gore said. “Our homework was to get a copy and get our highlighters out.”