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City legal staff assigned the job of proposing charter update language

Meetings of the city's Charter Review Committee were suspended last week, and a member of the city's legal staff has been handed the job of proposing language to update the City Charter.

Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said that one of his deputies, Michael J. Norris, will write up new provisions to remove archaic provisions from the century-old document.

Norris, who also is Niagara County Republican Party chairman, said he will do the work with the help of retired City Clerk Richard P. Mullaney, who served on the 14-member committee.

"We've interviewed all the department heads in the presence of the committee," Norris said. "We're going to recommend certain provisions that are no longer relevant be omitted."

"They've done a lot of work, so maybe some of the text Norris is considering is text the committee wrote," Mayor Michael W. Tucker said.

In March, Ottaviano had suggested that the city hire a company that provides ready-made language for a modernized charter. That would have cost $10,000 to $15,000.

"I kind of balked at that," Tucker said. "I didn't want to spend any money on that. I thought we should do it ourselves."

Ottaviano said the charter review process won't change much at City Hall.

"We're not changing the terms of office. We're not changing the number of elected officials. We're not changing the structure of government," he said, adding the very term "charter review committee" might have been a mistake.

"It started with the wrong terminology. When you have a charter review commission, there are strict legal requirements," Ottaviano said.

Norris said his proposals will be submitted to the committee and later to the Common Council.

Whatever is done, Tucker said he'd like them to get on with it.

"I want it finished up in a reasonable period of time. It's been over a year -- a year and two months," Tucker said.