Warren City Council has passed several ordinances, including a Short-Term Rental Ordinance, an Americans with Disabilities Act ordinance, and an ordinance creating an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Commission. But at the October 26 city council meeting, city council members accused the city administration of dragging its feet over the publication of certain ordinances.
“There appears to be an inconsistency between the time it takes to issue an order and the time it takes to get to Municode,” Council Secretary Mindy Moore said.
Municode is the largest coder of legal documents for local governments in the United States.
City clerk Sonja Buffa says she has a long-standing method of processing orders once they are approved by council and reviewed by the city’s legal department. Once the order has been received by the registry, Buffa performs the following steps:
• The clerk’s office emails the approved order to the newspaper for publication.
• The Registrar’s Office will email the approved order to Municode, and it will be posted under “Adopted Orders Not Yet Consolidated”.
• Communications will then retrieve this ordinance directly from Municode where it is listed on the city’s website under “Recently Adopted Ordinances”. The ordinances are not officially on the municipal code website until the quarterly supplements are sent to Municode.
• Quarterly (January, April, July and October), the registry will send the most recent supplement to Municode to be codified, and Municode will be updated.
• Once a supplement is codified, it is emailed to the registry in pdf format (HTML for police) from Municode. The clerk sends it to all city departments for printing and placing in their hardcover prescription binders so that they are completely up to date.
Buffa said all orders are treated the same by her office and there would be no reason to delay processing an order once it is received from the city’s legal department.
Moore pointed out that a rental ordinance that was approved on July 13, 2020, was issued on July 28, 2020, but the U.S. Disability Act ordinance – also known as the Tony Baker ordinance – took four months from when it was approved to when it was posted. There is a court order that requires the administration to issue ordinances approved by the city council, but no specific timeline is in place.
On Tuesday, city council approved a 6-1 motion to establish an ordinance that sets a specific timeline for the publication of ordinances, which includes notifying Municode and notifying council of the effective dates of ordinances. Eddie Kabacinski was the only city councilor to vote against the measure.
“This ordinance would set a timeline that says these cannot be delayed,” Moore said. “Because I think what’s going on is somebody’s intervening in the process.”
Mayor James Fouts said neither he nor any member of his administration was doing anything to block the publication of the ordinances and that if he believed that an ordinance approved by the council was not good for the city, he would exercise his right of veto.
“It appears that this proposed schedule micromanages the clerk’s office,” Fouts said.