City Council votes to put charter on June ballot

Next meeting to include public comment on modifications, mayor says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The issue of whether or not to place a city charter on an upcoming ballot was one of heated debate that lasted more than three hours Monday night. In a unanimous vote, the Auburn City Council decided to put the charter on the June 5 ballot, according to Mayor Bill Kirby. “We voted that way because we have the confidence in the citizens to make the decision on the issue,” Kirby said after the meeting. Kirby said the council also directed City Attorney Michael Colantuono to come back to the Aug. 22 council meeting with some modifications to the charter, which can be commented on by the public. The Council Chambers at City Hall, as well as the building’s parking lot, were packed with citizens Monday night. One charter-related issue that came up in public comment had to do with a telephone poll conducted last week that questioned 350 Auburnites. The poll was sponsored by the nonprofit organization California Alliance for Jobs. California Alliance for Jobs is a Sacramento-based organization which “represents more than 2,000 heavy construction companies and 80,000 union construction workers from Kern County to the Oregon border,” according to its website. According to Hilda Martinez, director of communications for the organization, 58 percent of the 350 Auburn residents polled said they thought the city's government is fine the way it is. The poll says 20 percent of participants thought the issue of a charter status was the least important decision the city is facing. James Kirby, the son of Mayor Kirby, said before the meeting Monday that he received one of the calls, which Martinez said was conducted by the California polling firm J. Moore Methods. James Kirby said he thought the survey was attempting to lead him into giving certain answers. “The poll was very odd,” he said. “They were asking some very broad general questions and then they would get very specific on some issues.” James Kirby said the caller asked him about some political issues as well as his opinions about the council members. Kirby said when he told the caller he thought the charter should be put on the ballot, the caller asked him if he thought a citizens’ committee should be formed to analyze the charter. “So, they had taken my answer and given me a question, and said, ‘In lieu of what you said, can you go this way with it?’” he said. During the council meeting Mayor Kirby said the company tried to coerce his son. “These kinds of BS thug tactics do not belong in this city,” he said. “This should be exposed for what it is, and any side of this issue you are on, this is fraud.” Roseville resident Jim Earp, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs, said later he commissioned the poll and disagreed with what was said about it. “If (J. Moore Methods) conducted polls the way it was described, he wouldn’t be in business,” Earp said. “I conducted the poll as a public service for you.” Colantuono discussed several sections of the draft charter at the meeting, including making the city clerk and city treasurer appointed positions and leaving council members the only elected officials in the city. The draft charter states the council would decide qualifications and compensation for the positions and who would appoint them. Kirby said one of the potential modifications to the charter would be to take the city treasurer and clerk positions out of it and place them on the ballot for separate votes. Colantuono also discussed that under the draft charter, council member pay would be set according to California law for a city of Auburn’s population, and council members could not exceed the $600 monthly compensation ceiling in the future. Council members are currently making $270 a month. “This charter specifically says, and I think because of what happened in Bell, that can’t happen,” Colantuono said. Council members could also not take pensions or receive unemployment insurance after their time on the council, according to the charter, Colantuono said. At least 40 people spoke in favor of and in opposition to various aspects of the charter, with a line of citizens extending down the middle of the lower level of the chambers. Auburn resident Debora Faciana said one of her concerns was whether or not the city would continue to receive state and federal funding if it didn’t fall under all state mandates. Colantuono said the city would still receive the monies, because the governments don’t distinguish between charter and general law cities. Members of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce board, including Tony Hazarian, Bob Snyder and Bill Radakovitz all spoke in favor of putting the charter on the ballot after a recent vote by the chamber to support doing so. Former Auburn Mayor Cheryl Maki and former Placer County Supervisor Harriet White also spoke in favor of putting the charter on the ballot. In other business, City Council: • Approved a letter of support to Amgen Tour of California officials in hopes of having Auburn be a start city for the tour again in 2012. Reach Bridget Jones at