Supes tinker with charter

Plan to repeal charter halted, recommendation to redo vendor contracts voted on
By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
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County officials are chipping away at a charter they once considered demolishing. Rather than follow the recommendations of the El Dorado County Grand Jury and their own advisory committee, supervisors halted plans to put the 16-year-old document up for voter repeal this November after intense objections from a law enforcement union. Instead, supervisors recently voted 5-0 to draft ballot language concerning a lesser recommendation, one that has to do with vendor contracts. Currently, section 602 of the El Dorado County Charter demands that a contract be written for any outside purchase of services. On June 29, supervisors directed their county counsel to draft ballot language that would exempt purchases up to $15,000 from requiring a written contract. After some discussion by board members, that amount was raised from $5,000 in a motion by Supervisor John Knight. In his staff report to supervisors, County Counsel Louis Green explained the need for the amendment. Green cited a “classic example” in which the recorder-clerk took an office date-stamp clock to a jeweler for a $50 repair that required the drafting of a contract. “Although it was an extremely abbreviated contract, the jeweler was reluctant to sign it,” Green said in his report. With board approval, the next step is for Green’s office to bring back a ballot argument on July 20, said principal analyst Susan Hennike. To make the November ballot, supervisors must approve the ballot argument and the measure needs to be submitted to the Elections Department by July 21. That timetable makes additional charter-related ballot measures unlikely. “It’s looking like this is going to be it,” Hennike said of adding anything else to the November ballot. As recently as May, supervisors were moving ahead with drafting ballot language to let voters decide the fate of the county charter. Only a handful of counties are governed by charters, with critics saying they’re largely duplicative of general law and prone to special interest tinkering. Proponents argue charters give local officials more control over appointing supervisor vacancies. To appease the El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, which feared losing automatic wage increases embedded in charter section 504, county officials drafted a companion measure that would allow voters to essentially retain 504 while scrapping the rest of the charter. The DSA originally championed that compromise, then shifted gears and opposed any changes to the charter. In a recent phone interview with The Telegraph, Knight said there was no connection between the union’s opposition to putting the charter up for repeal and his change of heart. “I have no alliances one way or another,” he said. Rather, Knight said it was more important for county officials to take their time with changing the charter, even if that means waiting until 2012. In the meantime, the law enforcement union has revived labor discussions with the county’s human resources arm, Knight said.