SB Police Union Objects To Mayor & Council’s Charter Committee Proposal

(March 13)  The San Bernardino Police Officers Association is maintaining a move by newly installed San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis and his supporters on the city council to create a committee to review the city charter is illegal.
San Bernardino is a charter city as opposed to a general law city. Its charter and amendments thereto, per state law, are approved by the city’s voters. Provisions put into the charter by means of a citywide vote over a decade ago require that the city’s public safety employees – firefighters and police officers – be paid on a scale equal to the average pay of police officers and firefighters in ten similarly sized  California cities.
San Bernardino has been beset with financial difficulties that culminated in the city’s filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2012. Former mayor Patrick Morris has maintained that a major factor in the city’s fiscal deterioration is excessive salaries and benefits provided to city employees and retirees. Davis, an accountant by profession and a political ally to Morris, is of like mind.
As one of his first acts in office, Davis called for the creation of a municipal commission to consider charter changes, suggesting that the requirement that police and fire officers be provided with raises based on salaries given to their counterparts in cities free of the financial challenges San Bernardino faces should be done away with. That move failed when it was pointed out that a municipal commission cannot be formed without prior voter approval. The city council has now adjusted the proposal to seek the creation of a citizens committee to review the city charter.
San Bernardino Police Officers Association Attorney Rockne A. Lucia Jr., however, has taken issue with the proposal to charter the committee. Lucia maintains state law does not permit the appointment of committee members who are to act in the capacity of a commission. Those members must be elected by a vote and must reside within the city, according to Lucia.
Lucia hinted that by creating the panel to consider and recommend charter amendments, Davis and the council were seeking to provide the city’s voters, who must ultimately ratify the changes, with the impression that any endorsement of the changes by the committee were independently derived by a body that is at arm’s length from the city council.
Rather, Lucia suggested, the council should simply act on its own to place whatever charter amendments it deems fit before the city’s voters without cloaking them in the patina of an independently arrived at proposal.
Lucia said “the Council may simply propose amendments to the city charter directly, and ask city residents for an up or down vote on its proposals.” This, Lucia said “would streamline the process, and provide more direct political accountability or praise for any amendment’s fate.”
It is anticipated that on Monday, despite the police union’s protest, the city council will consider the creation of a charter review committee to be composed of one city business owner and one resident appointed by Davis and one resident appointed by each council member, along with a hired “charter specialist” steeped in municipal law.

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