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Charter Revision Could Be Dead

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

July 23, 2009

Earlier this week, the city council approved some and rejected other proposed changes to the city charter, as made by the Hartford Charter Revision Commission. The approved changes were then to go to the city's residents for a vote this fall.

But it now appears that the city may not have complied with state laws mandating a public hearing, and several attorneys at and around city hall are researching the law to figure the situation out. No proper public hearing could mean the process wasn't followed. And if the process wasn't followed, that could mean that the process is dead.

"This could be a real problem," said attorney Richard Wareing, who was the charter revision commission's chairman. "If the council doesn't undertake all the necessary steps within the required time, it dies."

"This all could be for naught," Wareing said. "Which would be extremely disappointing."

State law says that the "appointing authority" has to hold a public hearing on the commission's proposed changes. The assumption is that the "appointing authority" in this case is the entire city council.

But that's not what happened. The whole council didn't hold a public hearing; one of its committees did. Does that count? Wareing doesn't think so. And neither does Councilman Matt Ritter, who spearheaded the council's charter revision effort.

"It's a flawed process," Ritter said. "I think the end result is the thing is 100 percent dead."

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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