COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – If you live in Columbus and have looked at your sample ballot available through My Voter Page, you may have been confused by the wording of several items, especially the ones specific to the Columbus charter. WRBL previously reported on items pertaining to Article VII, Article V, Article VIII and the proposed revision to notice requirements. This article will explain ballot items pertaining to Article IV, Article VI and Appendix Two of the Columbus charter.

Norman Hardman was on the 2021 Charter Review Commission that came up with all of the Columbus items on the current local midterm ballot. He chaired the committee that reviewed Article IV. Hardman and a document called 2021 Charter Review Commission Recommendations have provided clarifications for the following items:

Article IV – Proposed Charter Amendment

The proposed Article IV – Proposed Charter Amendment is worded as follows on the sample ballot:

“For approval of the change in the existing charter of the City of Columbus to make clarifications in the language of certain Charter provisions pertaining to the Mayor and the Personnel Review Board; and to allow the Columbus Council to set the term of members of the Board of Tax Assessors within the range permitted by state law.”

Hardman said Article IV, Section 201 had outdated language that addressed city officers as division heads. His committee recommended addressing city officers as city officers in that section.

He said that each member of the personnel review board has an alternate.

“Well, that creates an issue if that alternate is no longer available to serve and that primary person is no longer available to serve,” he said. “And so, we’ve just made it so that alternates can be used interchangeably.”

Hardman said the current language in the charter has members of the board of tax assessors serve six-year staggered terms. His committee recommended changing that language to align their terms with state law.

Article VI – Proposed Charter Amendment

The proposed Article VI – Proposed Charter Amendment is worded as follows on the sample ballot:

“For approval of the change in the existing charter of the City of Columbus to make certain Charter provisions pertaining to the timing of Regular and Special Elections consistent with state law.”

This item deals with two sections in Article VI:

Section 6-100

The current language in Article VI, Section 6-100 says, “The regular election of the consolidated government shall be held on the Tuesday next following the first Monday in November in each even-numbered year.”

The 2021 Charter Review Commission recommended rewording it to say, “The regular election of the consolidated government shall be held on the date officially specified by state law for non-partisan office in each even-numbered year.”

Hardman said the point of this proposed change is to align the charter with state law.

Section 6-201

The current language in Article VI, Section 6-201 says, “The special election required herein shall be held on the date specified in the advertisement, but not less than 30 days nor more than 45 days after the publication of the call of the election.”

The 2021 Charter Review Commission recommended changing “45 days” to “90 days” to align the charter with state law, according to Hardman.

Appendix Two – Code of Ethics and Prohibited Practices

The proposed Appendix Two item is worded as follows on the sample ballot:

“For approval of the change in the existing charter of the City of Columbus to provide that violations of Sections 1 through 7 of the Code of Ethics shall be punishable by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000).”

Currently, the maximum fine set for violations of Sections 1 through 7 of the charter is $600. The 2021 Charter Review Commission recommended increasing the fine to $1,000 to “better cover the administrative cost created by ethic violations and create a more punitive fee.”