The Hallowell Charter Commission, created last February to review and make recommendations for possible revisions, will consider a host of changes to the way the city conducts business, including a review of the way the police chief is appointed each year.

A public hearing is scheduled for March 9 in the City Hall auditorium.

The city’s charter was created more than 60 years ago and last amended in 2006. Charter Commission Chairman Stephen Langsdorf said the group already has set forth a list of subjects to discuss with Mayor Mark Walker and the City Council at a workshop before the public hearing.

“The mayor and councilors are very happy with what we’ve done,” Langsdorf said in the conference room at his law firm, Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios LLP.

The group is considering changes to a number of sections of the charter and expects the revised charter to appear on the ballot in November.

One of the major subjects to be discussed — but not until the May meeting — is the annual appointment process of city officials. Langsdorf said it is the one thing in the charter that clearly needed a change. He cited the process of reappointing the police chief. The chief now is appointed each year by the city manager and then must be reappointed each January by the City Council.

“The fundamental problem is that the police chief was being reappointed to his position when the council didn’t have all the information necessary about his employment in order to make a decision about whether or not he should be reappointed,” Langsdorf said. “It makes no sense.”

Councilor Alan Stearns has spoken out about the need to change this in light of problems with police Chief Eric Nason. Nason was investigated by the Maine State Police after a female subordinate made a claim of sexual assault by Nason. Nason reports to City Manager Stefan Pakulski, and at January’s inauguration, he was approved by the council, though Stearns and Phillip Lindley voted against his reappointment.

Stearns thinks the public reappointment and subsequent vote is the wrong way to deal with certain city officials’ employment.

“Some of the charter’s provisions create awkward lines of authority and should be fixed,” Stearns said in an email to the Kennebec Journal. “The council shouldn’t be involved in as many promotions, hires or annual reviews as is required by the charter.”

The charter commission Facebook page, created by commission member Scott Cowger, said the March meeting would include a discussion of the number of city councilors — currently seven plus the mayor — the number and size of the city’s wards, council terms, the number of council meetings, powers and responsibilities of the mayor and council, and their compensation.

“I don’t think anybody thinks Hallowell is operating poorly or that there is some fundamental problem that requires us to make significant changes to the charter,” Langsdorf said. But the charter has been amended very little since its inception, and that is why looking at the document makes sense, he said.

At this first public meeting, Langsdorf, who represents a number of municipalities and has years of experience with city charters, said he would present some ideas and then open the forum for public comment.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to see (the feedback),” he said. “I certainly hope we get a broad array of feedback and that it doesn’t just come from the same people that give input at other meetings. We want people to come in and openly say what they do and don’t like about Hallowell.”

The Charter Commission, in addition to the Facebook page, is running a public service announcement on the local cable TV access channel in hopes of spreading the word about the March 9 meeting. Cowger said he hopes people in the community get interested in the discussion and the work of the commission.

“This is the constitution for the city of Hallowell,” Langsdorf said. “I think it’s an important issue and a very high priority.”

Langsdorf said the group planned its schedule to include a meeting in April to work on preliminary revisions to the charter. The commission will hold a workshop May 11 with the clerk’s office, treasurer, assessors and the School Department, with a public hearing to follow, to discuss issues including limits on the council’s bond authority and the aforementioned appointment process. Additional meetings are planned for June 8 and July 13 in advance of a public hearing on Aug. 10 to review the draft.

The final Charter Commission meeting is scheduled for Sept. 7, and the group will present the revised charter to the City Council a few days later in order for it to appear on the November ballot.

Langsdorf said he thinks it’s a realistic schedule.

“I think we’ve laid out the schedule in a way that makes sense,” Langsdorf said. “I do hope we get a good turnout.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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