City seeks revisions to charter

May 28, 2020

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a 5-part series on the vote to revise the City Charter)

Some things must change with the times.

That is what the Marlow City Council is asking voters to do this summer with proposed revisions of the city charter.

On June 30, the city will present three propositions on the ballot. Registered voters living within the city limits will be eligible to cast their ballots.

The first would update the language pertaining to qualifications to be a city councilperson.

The second would abolish the rarely used Personnel Board and remove adjoining language.

The third proposition would update bidding limits on public improvements.

“It’s been some time since the elected officials and staff have taken a good, hard look at the charter,” said city administrator Jason McPherson. “The current charter and system of government was approved by voters in 1971, and there has been little change since.”

In fact, the charter was adopted June 23, 1971, as the city transitioned from a commissioner-system to a council-(city) manager form of municipal government. The only amendment, dealing with primary election dates, was approved by voters on January 7, 1992.

“The charter is basically the city’s constitution,” McPherson noted. “And like the U.S. Constitution, a vote of the people is the only thing that can change it.”

McPherson said he joined Mayor Brian Davis, Vice-Mayor Jeff Prater and city clerk Betty Mackey to begin the process of reviewing the charter for change.

“We started in October (of 2019) reviewing each title and section,” McPherson said. “We would meet monthly to discuss thoughts of each member.”

After settling on a number of possible items, the discussion was brought before the entire council for review, McPherson added.

The process later involved the city attorney to craft the items into a proclamation and resolution to bring to the ballot.

Proposition I

Proposition I would amend Section 2-1 of the charter pertaining to the qualifications of a city councilperson.

If changed, the language in the charter would read “There shall be a council of five members, which shall consist of the Mayor as councilman at large and one councilman from each of the four wards of the City as the wards are constituted in this Charter or as they may hereafter be constituted by Ordinance. Only qualified electors of the City who are at least twenty-five years of age, who are not in litigation with the City nor in arrears to the city for taxes owed when elected, and who have been for one year next preceding the date of election bona fide residents of the City, shall be qualified for the offices of Mayor and councilmen. Councilmen from the wards shall also be residents of their respective wards. If the Mayor or any other councilman is convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, his office shall become vacant immediately when the case is finally determined.”

The change removes three words – “and property taxpayers” – from the section, but makes a significant change.

“The change allows for the City Charter to be more in line with state law,” said Prater. “State law does not require candidates for council to be property owners. With removing the property tax language, the charter would be updated to include all city residents.”

A “yes” vote would approve the change.

Proposition II

Proposition II would remove Sections 3-2, 3-3, 3-4 and 3-5 of the charter.

3-2 deals with appointments, removals and personnel regulations. 3-3 created the Personnel Board. 3-4 distinguishes classified and unclassified service levels for employees and 3-5 deals with removal through a hearing of the Personnel Board.

The Personnel Board consists of three members of the community and is called to settle employment issues surrounding removal.

“These are all things that are properly dealt with in the employee handbook,” McPherson said. “The Personnel Board is a difficult board to fill, and they have not met in at least the last 12 years outside of minimum requirements. It has never been called for a hearing.”

McPherson stated that releasing the requirements of having the board would allow staff to focus on proper handling of the issues like any other business.

A “yes” vote would approve the change.

Proposition III

Proposition III would amend Section 4-3 that deals with public improvement bidding.

Currently, any city contract for a public improvement estimated at $1,000 or more requires competitive bidding. State statute only calls for competitive bidding for projects over $50,000.

“One thousand dollars is an outdated figure,” said Davis.

“It slows down a lot of progress and many projects that are needed simply for repair,” McPherson added.

One example was a couple of years ago when wind damage took shingles off of the police and fire building.

“It took three months to work through the bidding process for a $7,000 repair,” McPherson said. “We received the money from the insurance company long before we could have the work done.”

McPherson said the Competitive Bidding Act is a vital part to keeping public projects fair and open, but the $1,000 rule implemented by the 49-year-old charter must change.

“We need to be at the state level,” McPherson said.

The change would read as follows: “Public improvements may be made by the City Government itself or by contract. The City Council shall award all contracts for public improvements in compliance with the requirements of the Oklahoma Competitive Bidding Act codified at Okla. Stat. title 61, Second 101 et seq, as amended. All bids may be rejected and further notice and opportunity for competitive bidding may be given.”

A “yes” vote would approve the change.

The charter, in its current form, is available at the city’s website – – with a main link “City Codes” in the middle of the webpage.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 30.