Petitions to change ES government going to LR

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Petitions with 153 certified signatures asking for a change from the mayor/alderman form of city government in Eureka Springs to a city administrator system have been sent to the Arkansas Secretary of State.

Carroll County Clerk Shirley Doss said she was "putting them in the mail" Monday.

The secretary of state must certify the signatures and then call for an election within 30 to 50 days of his certification. That could place the issue on a ballot for the May 18 primary election, since it is already scheduled.

The petitions were originally submitted to Doss March 19. The organizers needed a total of 145 signatures, 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the November 2002 mayoral race.

In the first group of 13 pages of signatures, only 133 of the 164 were certifiable. One page of 20 signatures was lost because it was not signed by the person collecting the signatures.

An additional two pages of signatures were submitted to Doss March 29.

Once the election is held, there are 15 days to challenge the results. When those days have passed, Doss sends the election results to the secretary of state for further certification.

Once the state certifies the election results, the city council is required to divide the city into four wards of approximately equal population size.

Within 10 days of the wards being established, the secretary of state must set a primary election in 60 to 75 days and a general election to follow, seven to 15 days later.

Candidates for the seven-member board of directors and the mayor's post then have 20 days to file a 50-signature petition.

Races with more than three candidates will be on the primary election ballot. The top two will face each other in the general election.

Positions #1 through #4 on the board are elected by voters of the specific wards. The other three board seats and the mayor are elected at large.

The ward representatives will serve only two years -- until the next general election, if the first election is held this November.

Those in the at-large seats and the mayor will serve until the second general election in November of 2008.

After that, all terms are four year terms.

While the mayor continues to preside over the board meetings, the other duties are primarily ceremonial. The mayor does not have a vote during board meetings, but still has veto power.

Once the board of directors is in place, the group is required to hire a city administrator to supervise and control all administrative departments, agencies, offices and employees; and nominate all city commission members, subject to board approval.

The administrator takes on all powers currently held by the mayor and any additional duties which may be assigned by the board.

The administrator can be hired for an indefinite term, but the board could fire him/her. The board is prohibited by state law from firing the administrator between Jan. 1 and March 1 following a general election.

The board of directors acts as the legislative branch of the city government -- passing laws and approving budgets while the administrator is responsible for running the city.

In the opinion of Don Zimmerman, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League, the currently elected city clerk-treasurer and city attorney will be able to complete their terms, ending in December of 2006.

"After the end of the terms, the city administrator and/or the board of directors would hire the clerk and attorney, if they wanted to," he said. "They would no longer be elected positions."

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