Proposed changes to Richmond's city charter

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The laws that govern Richmond City Hall are about to get an overhaul.

The city is looking at changing its charter to better define the balance of power between the mayor and the city council.

An independent review commission has been meeting for almost a year, trying to make sure the city's law book is fair to both the mayor and the council.

It recently released recommendations for 10 major changes to the charter.

Douglas L. Wilder was the city's first elected mayor.

But his tenure in office led to challenges of authority, countless courtroom battles and the eventual need for an overhaul to the city's charter.  A review commission is now trying to patch the charter's holes.

"This can not be personality driven, these charter changes have to  make sense for the city and not necessarily to counteract things that have happened in the past," said Kathy Graziano, Richmond City Council President.

But one of the group's first recommendation does decide the fate of a past battle. It recommends allowing council to hire its own staff, an issue challenged by Doug Wilder that ended up in court.

The most controversial recommendation involves the city's auditor. Umesh Dalal had very public battles with former mayor Wilder. But has been given more influence under current mayor Dwight C. Jones.

"We are granting the city auditor full and direct access to all city departments," mayor Jones said.

The commission is recommending the mayor not the council appoint the auditor.

Council man Bruce Tyler believes that's a bad idea.

"It's critical that you have someone who can step in who basically does  not have any allegiance to the administration. So they can do their job and do it independently," Tyler said.

Council president Kathy Graziano says the auditor serves both, but she worries his job would become political.

"I like what this auditor does. I like the role this auditor has taken but again. We need to protect him  from political influences. Because then his job becomes skewed," Graziano said.

These changes eventually have to be approved by both the mayor and the council before they are sent to the General Assembly for a vote.

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