Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey vetoed Friday an ordinance previously approved by the Borough Assembly regarding the time assembly members are allowed to serve.
Carey struck down Ordinance 2011-24, a now two-and-a-half-month-old ordinance, that through amendments became a shadow of its original intent.
The ordinance was introduced in early June by assembly president Gary Knopp and originally sought to add an extra term to the time assembly members could serve before being required to take a break in service. It also sought to redefine a term as three full years.
However, at the assembly’s early July meeting, several amendments offered by members changed Knopp’s ordinance so much that members of the assembly became concerned it needed to be mulled by the public again. It was brought back at the assembly’s Aug. 2 meeting, but only two residents testified regarding the matter.
However, an amendment from assembly member Linda Murphy changed the ordinance again.
Ultimately, the assembly passed the ordinance without having heard any public comment on the Murphy amendments, an action that drew sharp criticism from Carey who thought more public involvement was needed.
The ordinance entered the meeting with language that would have asked borough voters to consider increasing the existing two-term limit on service to a limit of two, full, three-year terms, plus any partial terms for a maximum of eight years service on the assembly.
It would have prohibited an assembly member from serving on the assembly again until 180 days has passed since his or her last day of service.
The Murphy amendment deleted that language and added a section mirroring the mayoral term limits.
The ordinance, which did not have to go before voters in the October election, was approved, 8-1, with assembly member Brent Johnson voting against the measure. It would have taken effect on Oct. 14 and changed term limits to read that “no person who has completed two consecutive full terms on the assembly may serve another term or portion of a term until a period of 180 days has passed since the end of his second consecutive full term of office.
“A full term of office means the regular term of office for assembly and does not include portions of a term served by appointment or election to the remainder of an unexpired term vacated by another person or to a truncated term resulting from assembly redistricting.”
Carey said his veto didn’t have as much to do with the idea of the ordinance as its path to enactment.
“In looking at this, I am very concerned about the public process,” he said.
Carey said that until the Murphy amendment was offered, all forms of the ordinance were protected in the fact that they would need approval from voters.
The Murphy amendment did not allow the issue to be placed on the ballot, despite requests from assembly member Brent Johnson, who was the lone assembly member to vote against the ordinance.
“So at our meeting a week from Tuesday, there had been no notice, there had been nothing discussed that whatever changes would not go to the voters,” Carey said.
Carey said he was “quite reluctant” to veto the ordinance.
“I feel that those were significant and if people would have known that there was even a chance it wasn’t going to be on the ballot, they would have showed up,” he said. “We are required to provide notice, in my opinion, when you make a significant change. In discussing with legal, they said that certainly does seem to meet the requirements of a substantial change and therefore there needs to be another meeting.”
Carey said the assembly has up to 21 days from Friday to take action on the matter. A two-thirds vote can overturn the veto, he said.
The assembly can either take up the issue at its Tuesday meeting or call a special meeting to consider an action.
Carey said he hopes the veto stands and the assembly reintroduces a similar ordinance so the matter can be vetted again. Carey also said he heard assembly member Bill Smith had a few amendments he would like to add to the issue, should it be reintroduced.
“Then I think we are in a safe position from a legal challenge,” Carey said.