Lawrence City Council President Patrick Blanchette and some of his fellow councilors seem to be confused about their role in city government. Everyday they seem more and more confused about the powers granted to them under the City Charter. So let me take this opportunity to clear the record on the separation of powers between the City Council and the Mayor's Office.
First, the City Council intentionally usurped the powers of the Mayor's Office (with a 7-2 vote) by establishing a school construction committee. This vote was taken even after the legal opinion was read into the record that said establishing such a committee violated the City Charter and the separations of powers.
Next, the City Council, under the direction of Council President Patrick Blanchette, created an ordinance where all three assistant city attorneys would be hired and fired by the City Council with no input from the executive branch whatsoever.
But, the City Charter clearly states three times that upon recommendation from the City Attorney, the Mayor will appoint and the Council will confirm these positions.
Allowing the Lawrence City Council to have total control over the hiring and firing of all members of the legal team is clearly a conflict of interest under the Charter.
Finally, the City Council has proposed another ordinance (3.04.221) that takes control of city contracts (over $100,000) away from the Mayors Office and puts it in the hands of the part time City Council.
An opinion by Assistant City Attorney James Bowers clearly states The City Council cannot adopt ordinances, which violate the City Charter. But that didnt stop the council from pushing the measure forward.
Attorney Bowers further ruled that The powers of the City Council are restricted to those conferred upon it by the Charter, and that The City Charter does not provide fiscal powers to the City Council beyond the review and adoption of the city budget.
Therefore, Attorney Bowers concluded that the terms of the proposed ordinance contradicts the City Charter.
These actions of the Lawrence City Council are nothing short of illegally enacting charter changes under the guise of calling them city ordinances without going through the state legislature as mandated by state law.
Yet, this same Council has been quick to point out the importance of checks and balances when it is politically convenient.
I am only left to wonder, if some of these councilors truly believed they had a chance to win the Mayor's Office in November (at lest two have already declared), why would they spend so much time and energy trying to (illegally) strip power away from the Mayor's Office?
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