Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Draft policy would consolidate city’s advisory boards, bar commissioners and employees from serving on them

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

Lawrence City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St., is pictured on May 3, 2016.

August 8, 2017

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The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday expressed support for reductions and changes to the more than 40 committees and advisory boards that fall under its purview.

At its work session Tuesday, the commission directed city staff to move forward in the process of consolidating some boards, eliminating others and laying the groundwork for a policy that would standardize board procedures.

As part of the discussion, City Manager Tom Markus said the city’s practice of having city commissioners serve on advisory boards that submit recommendations to the City Commission is not the norm. He said it creates an awkward position for commissioners.

“You go to your role as a city commissioner and it’s tough to separate yourself from that duality that has occurred,” Markus said. “You almost have to champion the cause from the board that you sat on or you feel like you’re a bit of a traitor.”

However, Markus said it makes sense for a city commission representative to continue to serve on governing boards related to organizations, such as the chamber of commerce, that receive city funding and have independent discretion on how that money is spent. Under those circumstances, Markus said commissioners essentially serve a watchdog role.

Commissioners agreed the commission’s role on governing boards should be maintained and that they should be removed from advisory boards that submit recommendations to the City Commission.

“I think it puts us in a difficult position,” said Vice Mayor Stuart Boley, noting that he serves on the Affordable Housing Advisory Board and the Public Incentives Review Committee.

In addition, the majority of commissioners also agreed with a recommendation that other city employees should not serve on boards. However, Commissioner Mike Amyx said the city has many good staff members he thought could serve on boards and step away from recommendations if needed.

But Markus said he doesn’t think it’s an appropriate role for city employees and that those seats should be reserved for members of the public.

City staff will now move forward with developing a draft policy that covers topics such as appointment of board members, term limits, residency requirements, attendance, resignation procedures and public comment at meetings. The overall policy will come before the commission for additional review at an upcoming meeting, and the commission will discuss exceptions for some boards.

In accordance with the commission’s strategic plan, city staff is also recommending the commission consolidate five boards and eliminate a handful of others. Commissioners agreed those decisions need more discussion, but did make clear they do not wish to eliminate the Sales Tax Audit Committee should Lawrence voters choose to renew the 0.55 percent citywide sales tax this fall.

Consolidation of boards does not affect related organizations that receive city funding, as those decisions are made as part of the city’s budget process. For those boards that the commission chooses to combine, city officials said commissioners would have to discuss further how the membership would adjust.

“There may be some that could completely be absorbed, but there may be others you want to reconfigure,” Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard said.

In other business, the commission voted unanimously to authorize a $170,000 engineering services agreement with Bartlett & West Engineers for the design of the East Ninth Street Project. The engineering plans will not incorporate a design concept completed by el dorado inc. last year that cost $320,000.

Comments

Franz Bruyere 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I also agree that Commissioners should not be on any Advisory Boards as that could be considered 'conflict of interest'.

As far as City employees being on Advisory Boards, I think that at least one City / County employee, who works in an appropriate department 'connected' to that Board's purpose, should be on each Board as a non-voting 'consultant'. They would be there to answer question regarding City and/or County regulations, codes, etc. if questions come up concerning those (as stated above, 'watch-dog').

I also agree that the Advisory Board 'draft policy' should be set out as a single, general set of rules and regulations for the Boards, so that there are no questions on how a Board is set up, run, members chosen, etc. If there are specific requirements for members for a particular Board, those requirements can be stated as an Addendum to the policy.

Bob Smith 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Lily Williams is another lousy, rotten spammer.

Richard Heckler 3 months, 2 weeks ago

More often than not city staff and commissioners don't need to agree with advisory boards however can be there to offer differing opinions and/or to put forth say city code guidelines and such. Makes for a healthy discussion.

I've sat on commissions whereby a position supported by the commission was adverse to city codes/guidelines yet city staff people will be at city commission meetings advising commissioners of existing regulations and such.

City staff advisors never necessarily took a position as such but would state that city code/regulations do/do not support this or that.

I think city commissioners know they cannot vote one way or another UNTIL an item comes before the city commission. Advisory people also cannot state a position until an item comes before them.

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