City Council Isn’t Abiding By Charter — By Tommy Purser

I would respectfully recommend to the Mayor of Hazlehurst and the members of the Hazlehurst City Council that they take the time to read the City Charter.
It’s a document that they appear to be unfamiliar with. And that’s a shame. They were elected to office to, among other things, conduct the city’s business in accordance with the dictates of the City Charter.
A few cases in point:
In last Monday night’s city council workshop, the mayor announced that he would read the first reading of a change in a city ordinance, adding that the second reading would be at Thursday’s regular meeting. His cursory understanding of the City Charter apparently made him aware of the fact that before an ordinance or an amendment to an ordinance can be approved it must be read publicly twice.
But that’s only part of the story. The City Charter dictates that the reading must be done twice at two consecutive regular meetings. Which gives the public a month to consider the proposal and offer advice on it. A month. Not two days.
And the council’s vote in a May meeting to terminate the employment of Police Officer Jose Zamora was also not in accordance with the City Charter.
As I read the charter — and let me hasten to add that I am not an attorney and may be mistaken — a department head can terminate the employment of an employee pending a hearing before the whole council should he or she request one. Neither the Mayor nor the Council has the authority to terminate an employee without a hearing. The employee can be suspended with or without pay pending a hearing before the full Council should he or she request one.
Again, I may not be an attorney, but I was a member of the Hazlehurst City Council when the current City Charter was proposed to the public and approved by the State Legislature after the public had ample opportunity to offer advice on the matter. I know what our intent was when we developed the charter.
Which reminds me. Last week, I ran into a former city employee in Wal-Mart who claimed he had been re-hired by the Mayor and subsequently fired by the Mayor some time later. I found that amusing because the Mayor has no such power to hire or fire any employee without the consent of council.
That is the second city employee who has claimed that he had been fired by the Mayor. I told him, too, that the Mayor has no such power. So, I guess I can assume that both employees were mistaken.
It’s depressing to know all the work we did to develop that City Charter was in vain.

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