Home rule charter committee not needed

Published May 19, 2014 at 11:26 am (Updated May 19, 2014 at 11:26 am)

Bethel Park Council violated section 1107 of the Home Rule Charter (HRC) in February 2013 by passage of an ordinance in support of a dedicated tax for the Bethel Park Volunteer Fire Company (BPVFC). Section 1107 of the HRC states that the effective date of an ordinance shall be no sooner than 30 days after its adoption by council. It is clear that the HRC language is intended to apply to all ordinances enacted by council. The municipality lawyer, the municipality senior staff and the council were inept in not introducing the ordinance in January 2013, therefore, avoiding the controversy about compliance with Section 1107 of the HRC.

The intent of section 1107 of the HRC is to provide time for the public to study the ordinance to decide whether to initiate an ordinance challenge. If the public decides to challenge the ordinance, it must be done in the specified 30 day period by filing a designated form at no cost to the challengers. Municipality lawyer Mr. McTeirnan opined that the ordinance that was introduced in February 2013 is an initiating ordinance and the HRC effective date is inapplicable. Therefore, the ordinance was submitted to the election bureau by Mr. McTeirnan 27 days before its effective date defined by the HRC.

A question has now arisen as to the status of Section 1107 in the HRC as a result of the McTeirnan opinion. At the April 28, 2014, council committee meeting, council was requested to seek a legal clarification of the status of section 1107 as the result of the McTeirrnan opinion. Rather than council addressing the submitted question, the majority of council decided that a committee of council will be formed to review the HRC. A committee has not been formed at this time.

There are two items that need to be addressed by the council action.

An extensive time period of time will be required for the HRC review by the committee and implementation of any changes that may recommended for the HRC. Any recommended changes must be put on a ballot and approved by the voting public. During this extensive period an ordinance passed by council may be considered for challenge by the public. It appears that the public would then be subjected to the expense of employing legal counsel to determine if the ordinance is subject to challenge.

The HRC provides the mechanism for making changes to the HRC. This procedure has been employed four times to make changes in the HRC. Therefore, the need for committee of council to review the HRC is unneeded.

It is suggested that the proposed formation of the review committee is political cover for the ineptness of the paid municipal staff and council for not acting in a timely fashion to pass the desired ordinance in a time period in full compliance with the HRC.

Don Harrison

Councilman Fifth Ward

Bethel Park

Home rule charter committee not needed

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