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Monroeville home rule charter review progressing, recommendations taking shape

Emily Balser
| Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 8:00 p.m.

The Monroeville home rule charter review committee is making its way through the 58-page document and already has some recommended changes for council to consider at the end of the year.

The charter, which essentially is the constitution of Monroeville, was created in 1974.

The board has been meeting since early March to review the document, looking for anything that needs to be changed or updated to adhere to changes in state laws or borough code.

Dave Kucherer, committee chairman, said the meetings have been going well so far.

“Fortunately, I have 10 years on council — that's my perspective,” he said.

Kucherer said each of the group's seven members brings a unique perspective.

“That's why this is working,” he said.

The group has made it through 10 sections of the 24-section document so far, including name and boundaries, powers of the municipality, municipal council, operation and procedures of municipal council, ordinances and resolutions, the mayor, the municipal manager, the municipal attorney and administrative units.

One item the group wants to advance for council's consideration is adding language saying the Civil Service Commission is in charge of Monroeville Police Department personnel matters and not the personnel committee, which is in charge of all other municipal departments.

“The issue is this originally, when the home rule charter was passed in the '70s, it essentially eliminated the Civil Service Commission,” said Bob Wratcher, municipal solicitor.

However, the borough code still states that the Civil Service Commission should oversee police departments' hiring, retention, appeals and dismissals.

Wratcher said when there is a question about home rule charter matching with state laws, local officials default to the borough code.

“As far as the police are concerned, the borough code is still the organizing document,” he said.

Another change for council's consideration will be to repeal an article on recalls.

Wratcher said when the charter was created, it included a section stating if citizens were unhappy with an elected official, they could collect a certain number of signatures to put a recall referendum on the ballot to remove that person from office.

Wratcher said citizens don't have any power over removing an elected official from office.

“The state constitution is the final word on that and the home rule charter can't make their own rule,” he said.

He said only the county district attorney and the state attorney general have the authority to remove an elected official, and even then, the official has to be charged with a crime.

The committee also is recommending clarifying charter language on term limits to make clear if a person is appointed to fill an unexpired term lasting less than two years, that person can run for the position two more times; if the unexpired term that is filled is two years or more, the person only can run for the seat once.

“The court said if you are one year and 364 days, you have not filled a term, so you can then be in for two more terms,” Wratcher said.

He used Monroeville Mayor Greg Erosenko as an example: “He was appointed and his first term was a little less than two years. He has since been elected twice.”

In December, proposed changes will be presented to council for consideration. From there, any changes would go to a voter referendum; the goal is to have those changes on the 2017 primary ballot.

The charter review board will meet again at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the municipal building.

Its meetings are open to the public.

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-871-2369 or ebalser@tribweb.com.

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