The Carson City Charter Review Committee began a discussion on Tuesday to limit city emergency ordinances and the mayor’s emergency powers.
The suggestion came from public comment. Adele Basham, a Carson City resident of 35 years, sent a written statement recommending that the committee limit the time frame that an emergency ordinance may remain in effect and the mayor may perform “emergency duties.”
Currently, the Carson City Charter allows the Board of Supervisors, by unanimous vote, to enact emergency ordinances immediately at a regular or special meeting without filing copies of the proposed ordinance in advance.
The mayor is also directed to perform “emergency duties as may be necessary for the general health, welfare and safety of Carson City.”
Normally, Open Meeting Law requires that the city post meeting agendas three business days in advance, and ordinances must be adopted with two separate readings. Before the second reading can take place, the city must publish the language of the ordinance 10 days in advance in a city publication.
In an emergency, the board is allowed to post an agenda only six hours in advance of the meeting and adopt an emergency ordinance with one reading with no prior publication of the language.
Basham suggested that emergency ordinances and emergency mayoral duties should go through the Board of Supervisors for approval if they are to remain in effect for longer than a limited timeframe. She recommended a period of 30 days before review, but implied that the final deadline would be at the committee’s discretion.
The Charter Review Committee found both suggestions worth consideration, and the members directed city staff to research and draft language on the proposals.
Member Bob Weise expressed support for finding a way to craft language that would limit the potential for abuse of emergency powers.
The commission will continue the discussion at its next meeting May 17.
The committee also recommended several charter edits from city staff, including:
• Removing the deadline of Jan. 1 for the city clerk to complete voter redistricting after the U.S. Census.
District Attorney Jason Woodbury said that the deadline posed issues in 2021. Before the city clerk is allowed to begin redistricting, the State Legislature must first finish statewide voter redistricting. That process was delayed for months in 2021, which severely limited the time frame for the clerk to complete local redistricting. The committee agreed to recommend that the Board of Supervisors strike the Jan. 1 deadline.
• Adding language to clarify when a supervisor’s term begins and ends.
• Creating a process to fill vacant seats on the Board of Supervisors in the case that the mayor is unable to remain in office through the end of his or her term.
Members recommended that the elected Mayor Pro Tempore assume the mayor’s seat, and the supervisors appoint a member of the public to fill the supervisor seat vacated by the Mayor Pro Tempore.
The committee also rejected suggestions from the public to create two new wards in Carson City and elect supervisors by ward voting districts rather than at-large. Members of the charter committee pointed out that in 2014, the city voted over 60 percent in favor of holding at-large supervisor elections in the primaries.
The commission also decided to turn down a recommendation to replace the word “repugnant” with the phrase “not in conflict with.”
The sentence in the charter reads, “The Board may make and pass all ordinances, resolutions and orders not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States or the State of Nevada…”
Woodbury said that the word “repugnant” has historical significance in law.
The Charter Review Committee has two more meetings planned, May 17 and June 21, to finish review of the charter. The committee and the Board of Supervisors will hold a joint meeting in July to finalize any edits to the Carson City Charter.