Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
SECTION 1. The following shall be the charter for the city known as the town of Amesbury:
City of Amesbury charter
Incorporation, short title, powers
Section 1-1 Incorporation continued
The inhabitants of the city of Amesbury, Massachusetts, within its territorial limits as now or may hereafter be established by law, shall continue to be a body politic and corporate, known as the “city of Amesbury”.
Section 1-2 Short title
This instrument shall be cited and known as the Amesbury home rule charter.
Section 1-3 Division of powers
All legislative powers of the city shall be exercised by a city council. The administration of all fiscal, business and municipal affairs shall be vested in the executive branch headed by the mayor.
Section 1-4 Powers of the city
The intent and purpose of this charter is to secure for the voters of the city of Amesbury, through the adoption of this charter, all the powers possible to secure for their government under article LXXXIX of the amendments to the constitution of the commonwealth and the laws of the commonwealth, as fully and as though each such power were specifically and individually enumerated herein.
Section 1-5 Form of government
As a city, Amesbury shall have a mayor – council form of government.
Section 1-6 Interpretation of Powers
The powers of the city under the charter shall be construed and interpreted liberally in favor of the city and the specific mention of any particular power is not intended to limit in any way the general powers of the city as provided in section 1-4.
Section 1-7 Intergovernmental relations
Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the city may, to the maximum extent lawfully possible, participate by contract or otherwise with any governmental entity or political subdivision of the commonwealth, including the commonwealth and, to the extent feasible, any other state or the United States in the performance of any activity which 1 or more of such entities has the authority to undertake.
Chief executive officer; mayor
Section 2-1 Office of the mayor
(a) Mayor; qualifications; election
The chief executive officer of the city shall be a mayor, elected by and from the voters. Any voter shall be eligible to hold the office of mayor. The mayor shall devote full-time to the office and shall not hold any other elective public office.
A mayor who shall cease to be a resident of the city during the term for which such mayor was elected shall be deemed to have vacated the office of mayor and the office shall be considered vacant. Any vacancy in the office of mayor shall be filled in accordance with Section 2-10.
(b) Term of office
The mayor shall be elected for a term of 2 years beginning on the first city business day in January following the biennial election and until a successor is qualified.
The city council shall by ordinance establish an annual salary and expense schedule for the mayor. No ordinance increasing or decreasing such salary and expense schedule shall be effective, unless it shall have been adopted during the first 18 months of the term for which councillors are elected and the revised salary and expense schedule shall be effective upon the commencement of the next term of office of the mayor. The mayor shall receive no additional compensation from serving as the chairperson of the school committee as provided by section 4-3.
Section 2-2 Executive powers of the mayor
The mayor shall cause the laws, ordinances and orders for the city government to be enforced and shall cause a record of all official acts to be kept. The mayor shall execute all lawful contracts on behalf of the city. The mayor may appoint 1 or more qualified assistants to aid in the performance of the official duties, fix their salaries and define their duties.
Section 2-3 Appointments by the mayor
The mayor shall appoint all city officers, department heads and members of board, commissions and committees for whom no other method of appointment or selection is provided by the charter, excepting only officials serving under the city council and school committee and persons appointed by state officials. The mayor shall appoint the head librarian from among candidates recommended to the mayor by the board of library trustees. Unless otherwise provided by this charter, appointments of all city officers, department heads and members of board, commissions and committees shall become effective 21 days after submission of a written notice of any appointment to the city clerk; provided, however, that the city council may, during such 21-day period, reject any such appointment by a two-thirds vote of the full city council.
Section 2-4 Certificate of appointment
In making appointments, the mayor shall sign and file with the city clerk a certificate in substantially the following form: I appoint (name of appointee) to the position of (name of office), certify that said person is qualified to perform the duties of the said office and make this appointment solely in the interest of the city of Amesbury. This appointment shall not become effective until 21 days following the filing of this certificate with the city clerk, in accordance with the Amesbury Home Rule Charter. (Mayor signature)
Section 2-5 Removal of officials
The mayor may remove any person appointed by the mayor by filing a written statement with the city clerk setting forth, in detail, the specific reasons therefore. A copy of the statement shall be delivered or mailed to the person thus removed, who may make a written reply, which, if the person thus removed desires, may be filed with the city clerk. Such reply shall not effect the action taken unless the mayor so determines. This section shall not apply to the school committee, or persons appointed by state officials or offices subject to chapter 31 of the General Laws.
Any removal by the mayor shall become effective 21 days after submission of such written statement of removal to the city clerk; provided, however, that the city council may reject any such removal and reinstate such person, during the 21-day period, by a two–thirds vote of the full city council.
Section 2-6 Temporary appointments
Whenever a vacancy in an office appointed by the mayor occurs, whether by reason of disability, death, resignation or removal from office for any reason, the mayor may appoint another person to perform the duties of the office for a period not to exceed 4 months. Whenever a vacancy continues beyond 4 months, the mayor may make a second 4-month appointment, but no temporary appointment shall exceed 8 months.
Section 2-7 Communications to the city council; special meetings of the city council
(a) Communications to the city council
Within 12 weeks following the start of each fiscal year, the mayor shall submit to the city council, and make available to the public, a complete report on the financial and administrative activities of the city for the preceding fiscal year. The mayor shall provide, on a quarterly basis, written communications to the city council in order to keep the council fully informed as to the financial condition and future needs of the city and shall recommend such measures to the council as, in the judgment of the mayor, the needs of the city require.
(b) Call for special meetings of the city council
The mayor may, at any time, call a special meeting of the city council by causing a notice of such meeting, specifying the matters which the mayor desires to be considered, to be left at the usual place of residence or business of each council person or to be provided to each councillor, in-hand. The notice shall be delivered at least 48 hours in advance of the time set for such meeting, except in case of an emergency of which the mayor shall be the sole judge, and shall specify the purpose or purposes for which the meeting is to be held.
Section 2-8 Approval of veto by the mayor
Every measure relative to the affairs of the city adopted by the city council shall be presented to the mayor for approval, except:
(a) measures relating to the internal affairs of the city council;
(b) memorial or other resolutions;
(c) emergency measures passed in accordance with provisions of this charter; and
(d) the budget for the operation of city government.
If the mayor approves the measure, as demonstrated by mayoral signature, the measure shall be considered approved. If the mayor does not return any measure within 10 days following the day it is presented to the mayor, such measure shall be considered approved.
The mayor shall signify disapproval of a measure by returning it to the city council with a written statement of the objection or objections thereto. The city council shall enter the objection or objections of the mayor in its records and shall forthwith reconsider its vote. Any measure shall be considered returned upon a filing by the mayor with the clerk of the council. If, on such reconsideration, two-thirds of the full city council membership votes to pass the measure, the measure shall be considered approved. Any vote taken by the city council following the return of a measure by the mayor shall be taken by a call of the roll.
If, upon the return of the mayor’s disapproval of a measure, the city council does not vote on such measure within 21 days following the date of the return of the measure to the council, the measure shall be considered rejected.
Section 2-9 Temporary absence of the mayor
Whenever, by reason of sickness, absence from the city or other cause, the mayor shall be unable to attend to the duties of the office of mayor for any period of 7 successive days, the president of the city council or if the council president is unwilling or unable to serve, the vice-president of the city council shall act as mayor, possessing the powers of the mayor but only on those matters not admitting to delay. During any period in which the president or vice-president of the city council is serving as acting mayor, such person shall not serve as the presiding officer of the city council.
Section 2-10 Vacancy in the office of mayor
If a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor, by death, resignation or removal from office prior to the last 12 months of the term to which the mayor was elected, the city council shall schedule a special election pursuant to this charter. The city council president shall serve as acting mayor until such election. If the council president is unwilling or unable to serve, the council shall elect, from among its members, 1 member to serve as mayor until the next scheduled municipal election.
If the vacancy occurs during the last 12 months of the term, the city council president shall assume the office of mayor until the next scheduled municipal election. If the council president is unwilling or unable to serve, the council shall elect, by majority vote from among its members, 1 member to serve as mayor until the next scheduled municipal election. Upon qualification of the president, or the election and qualification of any member of the city council, as acting mayor under this section, a vacancy shall exist in the seat of the councillor selected as acting mayor.
Section 3-1 Composition; eligibility; election and term
There shall be a city council composed of 9 members that shall exercise the legislative powers of the city. Three members, to be known as councillors-at-large, shall be nominated and elected by and from the voters at large. Six members, to be known as district councillors, shall be nominated and elected by and from the voters of each district, 1 such district councillor to be elected from each of the 6 council districts into which the city is divided in accordance with section 7-5.
Any voter shall be eligible to hold the office of councillor-at-large. A district councillor shall, at the time of election, be a voter and resident of the district from which the councillor is elected.
A councillor-at-large who ceases to be a resident of the city during the term for which such councillor was elected shall be deemed to have vacated the office of councillor-at-large and the office to which such person was elected shall be considered vacant. A district councillor who moves from 1 district to another within the first 12 months of the term of office for which such councillor was elected, shall be deemed to have vacated the office of district councillor and the office to which such councillor was elected shall be considered vacant. Any district councillor who continues to reside in the city but who moves from the district he or she represents during the last twelve months of his or her term of office shall continue to serve for the balance of the term for which the district councillor was elected. Any vacancy in the office of councillor-at-large or district councillor shall be filled in accordance with Section 3-4.
(c) Election and Term
The term of office of city council members shall be for two years beginning on the first business day of January following the regular municipal election, and continuing until their successors are qualified.
Section 3-2 Council Organization
After the councillors-elect have taken the oath of office, the city council shall be called together by the city clerk for the purpose of conducting an election among council members for the office of city council president and vice-president to serve at the discretion of the city council. The president shall preside at all meetings of the city council, perform ceremonial functions and perform such other functions as may be assigned by this charter, by ordinance or by vote of the city council. The vice-president shall perform all duties of the council president during the council president’s absence or disability.
Section 3-3 General Powers and Duties
Except as otherwise provided by general law or by this charter, all powers of the city shall be vested in the city council, which shall provide for their exercise and for the performance of all duties and obligations imposed upon the city by law. The council shall provide for their exercise and for the performance of all duties and obligations imposed on the city by law.
Section 3-4 Filling of Vacancies
If a vacancy occurs in the office of city councillor, whether by failure to elect or otherwise, the vacancy shall be filled by the unelected candidate receiving the highest votes in the same election, if any, provided that candidate received at least thirty percent of the vote for that office. Said candidate shall be notified by the city clerk of the vacancy, and if the candidate declines to be sworn to office within ten days, has moved from the city, or is otherwise unable to serve, the council shall choose a successor to fill the vacancy from among the voters entitled to vote for such office. Any person so chosen shall take the oath of office and commence to serve forthwith. No vacancy shall be filled, in the manner herein provided, if a regular city election is to be held within 120 days following the date the vacancy is declared to exist. The city council shall be the sole judge of whether a vacancy shall exist in the office of city councillor and may declare an office vacant by a majority vote of the council.
Section 3-5 Exercise of Powers; Quorum; Rules of Procedure
(a) Exercise of Powers
Except as otherwise provided by the laws of the Commonwealth or this charter, the legislative powers of the city council may be exercised in a manner determined by it.
A quorum shall be a majority of the full membership of the city council. The affirmative vote of a majority of the full membership of the city council shall be necessary to adopt any appropriation order. Except as otherwise provided by the laws of the Commonwealth or this charter, any other motion or measure may be adopted by a majority vote of those city councillors present.
(c) Rules of Procedure
The city council shall within the first four months of taking office and from time to time thereafter establish and adopt written rules for its procedures and make public those proposed rules thirty days before adoption. Prior to adoption of proposed rules, the city council shall operate under the previously adopted rules. Regular meetings of the city council shall be held at a time and place fixed by ordinance but shall be not less frequent than once monthly. However, the council president may suspend meetings during the month of July or August. Special meetings of the city council may be held on the call of the mayor, the council president, or on the call of any three members, by written notice delivered to the city clerk at least forty-eight hours in advance of the time set. Except as otherwise authorized by the laws of the Commonwealth all sessions of the city council shall be open to the public and an agenda of any regular or special city council meeting shall be posted in the office of the city clerk and on the city bulletin board at least forty-eight hours prior to any such meeting. Such posting shall not preclude the city council from the introduction of additional agenda items as allowed by the city council’s rules of procedure. Every matter coming before the city council for action shall be put to a vote, the result of which shall be duly recorded. All city council votes on ordinances, appropriation orders, or loan authorizations shall be taken by roll call vote, and shall be duly recorded. A full, accurate, and up-to-date record of the proceedings of the city council shall be kept by the clerk of the city council and shall be open to inspection by the public as required by law. The rules of procedure of the city council shall provide for a period of public comment at regularly scheduled meetings of the city council. Any members of the city council or the mayor may submit an item or measure to the city council for consideration.
Section 3-6 City Clerk and Council Staff
The city council shall appoint a city clerk who shall also be the clerk to the city council, and may employ such staff and retain such assistance as is necessary to conduct the business of the city council. The city council shall set the compensation of such staff.
Section 3-7 Measures; Emergency Measures; Objection; Publication of Measures
(a) In General
No measure shall be passed finally on the date on which it is introduced, except in cases of special emergency involving the health or safety of the people or their property or other matters not admitting of delay. Except as otherwise provided by this charter, every adopted measure shall become effective at the expiration of fifteen days after adoption or at any later date specified therein. Measures not subject to referendum shall become effective upon adoption. No ordinance shall be amended or repealed except by another ordinance adopted in accordance with this charter, or as provided in the initiative and referendum procedures.
(b) Emergency Measures
An emergency measure shall be introduced in the form and manner prescribed for measures generally except that it shall be plainly designated as an emergency measure and shall contain statements after the enacting clause declaring that an emergency exists and describing its scope and nature in clear and specific terms. A preamble that declares and defines the emergency shall be separately voted on and shall require the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the city council. An emergency measure may be passed with or without amendment or rejected at the meeting at which it is introduced. No measure making a grant, renewal or extension, whatever its kind or nature, or a franchise or special privilege shall be passed as an emergency measure and except as provided by the laws of the Commonwealth, no such grant, renewal or extension shall be made otherwise than by ordinance. After its adoption, an emergency measure shall be published as prescribed for other adopted measures. An emergency measure shall become effective upon adoption or at such late time as it may specify.
On the first occasion that the question on adoption of a measure is put to the city council, if a single member objects to the taking of the vote, the vote shall be postponed until the next meeting of the city council whether regular or special. If more than one member shall object, such postponement shall be until the next regular meeting. For an emergency measure to be postponed at least three members must object, in which case such postponement shall be until the next regular meeting. This procedure shall not be used more than once for any measure notwithstanding any amendment to the original measure.
(d) Publication of Measures
Upon final passage, notice of the subject matter of every ordinance, appropriation order, or loan authorization shall be published in at least one newspaper of general circulation within the city and posted on the city bulletin board. Any such publication notice required shall state the title of the finally enacted ordinance or ordinances, appropriation order, or loan authorizations, and the times and places at which copies of such measures may be obtained or reviewed by the public. Copies shall be permanently filed at the public library and with the city clerk. The city council shall annually prepare a document describing the action of the council in the preceding fiscal year, which shall include the text of every ordinance, appropriation order, or loan authorization, which will also be filed at the public library and with the city clerk.
Section 3-8 Inquiries and Investigations
The city council may require the mayor, any city officer or employee or member of an appointed board, commission or committee to appear before it or a subcommittee of the city council, and give such information as the city council may require in relation to the office or position held by or administered by such person, its function and performance. The city council shall give at least five days written notice of the scope of the inquiry, which is to be made to any person the city council shall require to appear before the city council or its subcommittee under this section.
The city council may make investigations into the affairs of the city and into the conduct of any city agency. For this purpose the city council may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths and require the mayor, any city officer or employee or a member of an appointed board, commission or committee to appear before the city council or its subcommittee and produce such evidence as requested by the city council.
Section 3-9 Delegation of licensing powers
The city council may delegate to 1 or more city boards, committees, commissions or departments, the powers vested in the city council by the laws of the commonwealth to grant and issue licenses and permits, and may regulate the granting and issuing of licenses and permits by any such city board, committee, commission, or department and may, at its discretion, rescind any such delegation without prejudice to any prior action which has been taken.
Section 3-10 Prohibitions
No councillor shall, while a member of the city council, hold any other office, including membership on a board, commission or committee or any position under the city. No former councillor shall hold any compensated appointive office or employment under the city until 1 year after the expiration of his service on the city council. This provision shall not prevent a city officer or employee who has taken a leave of absence from such duties in order to serve as a member of the city council from returning to such office or employment following service as a member of the city council.
Section 3-11 Compensation; expenses
The city council shall, by ordinance, establish an annual expense allowance and salary for its members. Except as provided by this section, members of the city council shall receive no other compensation or benefits from the city.
No ordinance increasing such salary or expense allowance shall be effective unless it shall have been adopted by a two-thirds vote of the full city council membership during the first 18 months of the term for which councillors are elected and the revised salary and expense schedule shall be effective upon the commencement of the terms of office of the next city council to be elected.
Section 3-12 Involvement in administrative affairs
Except as may be otherwise authorized by this charter, no member of the city council, nor any committee of the city council shall directly take part in the conduct of the administrative business of the city.
Other Elected Officials
Section 4-1 Elected officers in general
In addition to the mayor and city council, the following offices shall be filled by the voters: school committee; planning board; board of library trustees; housing authority; and such other regional authorities, districts or committees as may be established by law or inter-local agreement. The members of the school committee, planning board, board of library trustees and housing authority shall be nominated and elected by and from the voters at large and their terms of office shall begin on the first business day of January following their election and continue until their successors are qualified.
Section 4-2 Eligibility
Any voter shall be eligible to hold elective city office except that no person shall simultaneously hold more than 1 elective city office. No elected officer shall hold an appointed city position or office or be otherwise employed by the city unless otherwise provided for by this charter.
Section 4-3 School committee
(a) Composition; term of office
There shall be a school committee composed of 7 members; 6 members shall be nominated and elected by and from the voters at large. The mayor shall be the seventh member of the school committee and shall be the chairperson of the committee. The term of office of 6 school committee members elected to the school committee shall be for 4 years. Terms of office shall be so arranged such that the terms of nearly an equal number of members as is possible shall expire at each regular election.
(b) Powers and duties
The school committee shall have general charge of the public schools of the city. The school committee shall have the power to select and to terminate a superintendent of schools, establish educational goals and policies for the schools consistent with the requirements of the laws of the commonwealth and standards established by the commonwealth. The school committee shall have all the powers and duties given to school committees by the laws of the commonwealth.
Section 4-4 Planning board
(a) Composition; term of office
There shall be a planning board consisting of 7 members elected for 4-year terms. Terms of office shall be so arranged such that the terms of as nearly an equal number of members as is possible shall expire at each regular election.
(b) Powers and duties
The planning board shall make studies and prepare plans relative to the resources, possibilities and needs of the city. The planning board shall have the power to regulate the subdivision of land within the city by the adoption of rules and regulations governing such development. The planning board shall annually report to the city, providing information relative to the condition of the city and any plans or proposals known to the planning board affecting the resources, possibilities and needs of the city. The planning board shall have all of the powers and duties given to planning boards under the constitution and general laws of the commonwealth, and such additional powers and duties as may be authorized by this charter, by ordinance or by other city council vote.
Section 4-5 Board of library trustees
(a) Composition; term of office
There shall be a board of library trustees consisting of 9 members elected for terms of 4 years. Terms of office shall be so arranged such that the terms of as nearly an equal number of members as is possible shall expire at each regular election.
(b) Power and duties
The board of library trustees shall recommend candidates for the position of library director. The board of library trustees shall have all of the powers and duties given to boards of library trustees under the state’s constitution and laws of the commonwealth, and such additional powers and duties as may be authorized by this charter, by ordinance or by administrative order.
Section 4-6 Housing authority
(a) Composition; term of office
There shall be a housing authority composed of 5 members. Four members shall be nominated and elected by and from the voters at large and the fifth member shall be appointed in accordance with the laws of the commonwealth. The term of office of 4 members elected by the voters shall be for 4-year terms. Terms of office shall be so arranged such that terms of office of 2 members shall expire at each regular election.
(b) Powers and duties
The housing authority shall make studies of the housing needs of the city and shall provide programs for housing. The housing authority shall have all of the powers and duties given to housing authorities under the laws of the commonwealth.
Section 4-7 Vacancies in elected offices other than mayor and city council
If a vacancy occurs in the membership of the school committee, planning board, board of library trustees or housing authority, whether by failure to elect or otherwise, the remaining members of such board or committee shall notify the president of the city council who shall declare such vacancy to exist. Within 30 days following the date such vacancy is declared to exist, the council president shall call a joint meeting of the city council and the remaining members of the board or committee on which such vacancy exists for the purpose of filling the vacancy. At any such joint meeting, a majority of those present and voting shall choose the unelected candidate who received the highest number of votes, if any, at the last regular city election immediately preceding the date of the vacancy for the seat declared vacant; provided, however, that such unelected candidate shall have received at least 30 per cent of the total votes cast for such office. If more than 1 unelected candidate meets the criterion as described above, the vote of the relevant board or committee and the council shall include all such candidates.
If there is no eligible candidate for such office, or if such unelected candidate declines to be sworn to office within 10 days, has removed from the city or is otherwise unable to serve, the city council and such other board or committee shall choose from among the voters entitled to vote for such office. Such vacancy shall be posted for a minimum of 30 days and the council and the relevant board shall meet at a special council meeting called for the purpose or at a regularly scheduled council meeting during which such candidates shall be granted equal time to speak. During such meeting, or the next following meeting, the council and the relevant board shall vote to fill the vacancy from among the announced candidates. The council and the relevant board or committee shall act in this matter as a committee of the whole, requiring a majority vote of the full council membership and remaining members of the relevant board or committee, to choose a candidate to fill the vacancy.
Any person so chosen shall take the oath of office and commence to serve forthwith. No vacancy shall be filled, in the manner herein provided, if a regular city election is to be held within 120 days following the date the vacancy is declared to exist. If a vacancy is filled under this section, the term of office of which continues beyond the next regular election, the person chosen to fill such vacancy shall serve only until such next regular election. At the next regular election, the voters shall elect a candidate to fill the unexpired balance of the term of office.
If the remaining members of the school committee, planning board, board of library trustees or housing authority fail to declare a vacancy, the city council shall be the sole judge of whether a vacancy exists in the office of any elected office under this section and may declare any such elected office vacant by a majority vote of the council.
Section 4-8 Prohibitions
No elected member of the school committee, board of library trustees, planning board or housing authority shall hold any compensated appointive office or employment under the city until 1 year after the expiration of the term of office of such elected member. This provision shall not prevent a city officer or employee who has been granted a leave of absence from such duties, by the appointing authority thereof, in order to serve as a member of such elected office from returning to such employment or office following service as an elected member of the school committee, board of library trustees, planning board or housing authority.
Section 5-1 Budget policy
The mayor, after consultation with the members of the city council, school committee, and others deemed appropriate by the mayor, shall call a meeting of the city council before commencement of the budget process to review the financial condition of the city, revenue and expenditure forecasts and other relevant information. The purpose of the meeting shall be to provide information relevant to the financial condition of the city. The mayor shall be assisted by the chief financial officer, established under section 6-3, in performing this responsibility.
Section 5-2 Submission of operating budget; budget message
In accordance with the laws of the commonwealth, before the commencement of the ensuing fiscal year, the mayor shall submit to the city council a proposed operating budget for all city agencies with an accompanying budget message and supporting documents. The mayor shall: outline the proposed fiscal policies of the city; describe important features of the proposed operating budget; and indicate any major variations from the current budget, fiscal policies, expenditures and revenues together with reasons for such changes. The proposed operating budget shall provide a complete fiscal plan of all city funds and activities and shall be submitted in the form the mayor deems desirable.
The operating budget adopted by the school committee shall be submitted to the mayor at least 30 days prior to submission of the proposed operating budget to the city council. The mayor shall notify the school committee of the date by which the operating budget of the school committee shall be submitted to the mayor. The chief financial officer shall coordinate the preparation of the budget with the superintendent of schools and the school committee’s budget process in accordance with the laws of the commonwealth.
Section 5-3 Action of the budget
(a) Public hearing
The city council shall publish, in at least 1 newspaper of general circulation in the city, a notice of the recommended operating budget as submitted by the mayor. The notice shall provide: (1) the times and places where copies of the recommended operating budget are available for inspection by the public; and (2) the date, time and place, not less than 15 days after such publication, when a public hearing on the proposed operating budget shall be held by the city council.
(b) Adoption of the budget
The city council shall adopt the operating budget, with or without amendments, within 45 days following the date the budget is filed with the clerk of the council. In amending the operating budget, the city council may delete or decrease any amounts, except expenditures required by law. Except upon the recommendation of the mayor, the city council shall not increase any item in the proposed operating budget or the total of the proposed operating budget unless otherwise allowed by the laws of the commonwealth.
If the city council fails to take action relative to any item in the operating budget within 45 days after receipt thereof, such amount shall, without any action by the city council, become a part of the appropriations for the next fiscal year and shall be available for the purposes specified.
Section 5-4 Financial planning
(a) Financial planning practices
The chief financial officer, established in accordance with section 6-3, shall assist the mayor in financial planning and shall annually prepare a capital improvements program and a financial forecast. The capital improvements program and financial forecast shall be prepared under the direction of the mayor, submitted to the city council and be made available to the public for inspection.
(b) Capital improvements program
The chief financial officer shall annually prepare and submit a capital improvement program to the city council at least 90 days prior to the date for submission of the operating budget, unless some other time is provided by ordinance. The capital improvement program shall include: an itemization of all capital improvements proposed to be undertaken for at least 5 fiscal years; supporting dates; cost estimates; method of financing; estimated effect of such plan on the tax rate; and other features as deemed necessary by the mayor or requested by the city council.
(c) Financial forecast
The chief financial officer shall annually prepare a long-term financial forecast of city revenue, expenditures and the general financial condition of the city. The forecast shall include, but not be limited to, an identification of factors which may impact on the financial condition of the city, revenue and expenditure trends, potential resources of new or expanded revenues and any long- or short-term actions which may be taken to enhance the financial conditions of the city.
Section 5-5 Annual audit
The city council shall provide for an annual audit of the books and accounts of the city and the school department to be conducted by a certified public accountant or a firm of certified public accounts who shall have no personal interest, direct or indirect, in the fiscal affairs of the city government. The city council shall publish a notice stating the availability of the final audit report for public inspection in at least 1 newspaper of general circulation in the city.
Section 5-6 Public access to financial documents
Copies of the annual budget, capital improvements program, financial forecast and the annual audit shall be available for public inspection and copies of such documents shall be filed in the office of the city clerk and the library.
ADMINISTRATION OF CITY GOVERNMENT
Section 6-1 Administrative organization
(a) organization of city agencies
The organization of city government into operating agencies for the provision of services and the administration of government may be accomplished through either of 2 methods, as provided in section 6-1 (a) (1) and (2). Subject only to the express prohibitions of the laws of the commonwealth or the provisions of this charter, the city may organize operating agencies as deemed in the best interest of the city.
(1) Organization by ordinance
The city council may, by ordinance passed by two-thirds of the full city council membership, reorganize, consolidate, create, merge, divide or abolish any city department or agency, in whole or in part, establish such new city agencies as deemed necessary or advisable and prescribe the functions and the administrative procedures to be followed by all such agencies.
(2) Executive reorganization plans
The mayor may, by administrative order, reorganize, consolidate, create, merge, divide or abolish any city division, department or agency, in whole or in part, establish such new city agencies as the mayor deems necessary or advisable and prescribe the functions and the administrative procedures to be followed by all such divisions, departments or agencies.
Administrative orders made by the mayor shall become effective on the thirtieth day following the day on which notice of the proposed administrative order is filed with the city council unless, the city council votes, within such 30-day period, to reject such administrative order, or has sooner voted to affirm it, by two-thirds vote of the full city council membership.
(b) Publication of administrative orders
For the convenience of the public, copies of reorganization plans adopted under this section shall be filed in the office of the city clerk and shall be printed as an appendix to the ordinances of the city. However, failure to print and publish such reorganization plans shall not invalidate such plans.
Section 6-2 Management of human resources
The mayor shall adopt rules and regulations establishing a human resources system. The human resources system shall make use of current concepts of human resources management and may include, but not be limited to, the following elements: a method of administration; human resources policies indicating the rights, obligations and benefits of employees; a classification plan; a compensation schedule; a method of recruiting and selecting employees based upon merit principles; a centralized record keeping system; a performance appraisal system; disciplinary procedures; and other elements that are determined necessary.
Unless otherwise provided by this charter, all city agencies and positions shall be subject to the rules and regulations adopted under this section, excluding those of the school department. Rules and regulations adopted by the mayor shall become effective on the twenty-first day following the day on which notice of the rules and regulations are filed with the city council, unless the city council votes, within such 21-day period, to reject such rules and regulations by a two-thirds vote of the full city council membership.
Section 6-3 Department of administration and finance
(a) Department established
There shall be a department of administration and finance under the direction of a chief financial officer. The chief financial officer shall be appointed by and responsible to the mayor. The chief financial officer shall be a person especially qualified by education, experience and training to perform the duties of the office. The mayor may from time to time establish such additional qualifications as deemed necessary and appropriate.
(b) Responsibilities of the chief financial officer
The chief financial officer shall be responsible for: the coordination of all financial services and activities; maintenance of all accounting records and other financial statements; payment of all obligations; receipt of all funds due; assistance to all other city agencies in any matter related to financial affairs; monitoring of expenditures of all funds, including periodic reporting to appropriate agencies on the status of accounts; maintaining a full and complete inventory of city real and personal property; acting as the chief procurement officer; supervision of all data processing or information management functions, unless otherwise provided; and any other matter relating to municipal finances as may be determined necessary or desirable. The chief financial officer shall assist the mayor with the preparation of an annual operating budget, financial forecasts, capital improvement program and other financial documents. The chief financial officer shall also keep the mayor fully informed as to the financial condition of the city, make recommendations as deemed necessary and perform such other duties as necessary or as may be assigned.
The chief financial officer shall supervise the offices and functions of the auditing, treasury and collecting departments. The chief financial officer shall also direct and supervise the daily operations of the assessing department; provided, however, that the board of assessors shall continue to have the other powers, duties and responsibilities which are given to boards of assessors under the laws of the commonwealth. The chief financial officer may serve as the auditor or the treasurer/collector but may not serve as both.
The department of administration and finance may be subject to reorganization in accordance with section 6-1.
Section 6-4 Liquor licensing commission
There shall be a liquor licensing commission established in accordance with the laws of the commonwealth.
Nominations and Elections
Section 7-1 City elections; general and preliminary
The regular city election shall be held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November of each odd numbered year.
On the seventh Tuesday preceding every regular city election, a preliminary election shall be held for the purpose of nominating candidates, if necessary, to assure that no more than twice the number of candidates for the available offices appear on the regular municipal election ballot.
Section 7-2 Preliminary elections
(a) Signature requirements
The number of signatures of voters required to place the name of a candidate on the official ballot to be used at a preliminary election shall be as follows: the signature requirement shall be not less than 50 for the office of mayor; the signature requirement shall be not less than 50 for the office of councillor-at-large; the signature requirement shall be not less than 25 signatures from the district for the office of district councillor; and the signature requirement shall be not less than 50 signatures for the offices of school committee member, planning board member, member of the board of library trustees and housing authority member.
(b) Ballot position
The order in which names of candidates appear on the ballot for each office shall be determined by a drawing by lot conducted by the city clerk in the presence of such candidates or their representatives as may choose to attend such drawings. The city clerk shall provide notice to candidates relative to their ballot position.
(c) Determination of candidates for election
The 2 persons receiving the highest number of votes for nomination for an office at a preliminary election shall be the sole candidates for that office whose names may be printed on the official ballot to be used at the regular election at which such office is to be filled, and no acceptance of a nomination at a preliminary election shall be necessary to assure its validity.
If 2 or more persons are to be elected to the same office at such regular election, the several persons in number equal to twice the number to be so elected receiving at such preliminary election the highest number of votes for nomination for that office shall be the sole candidates for that office whose names may be printed on the official ballot.
If the preliminary election results in a tie vote among candidates for nomination receiving the lowest number of votes which, but for such tie vote, would entitle a candidate receiving such number of votes to have such candidate’s name printed upon the official ballot for the election, all candidates participating in such tie vote shall have their names printed upon the official ballot, notwithstanding that twice the number of candidates to be elected shall be printed on such ballots.
(d) Nomination of candidates
If, at the expiration of the time for filing petitions of candidates to be voted for at any preliminary election, not more than twice as many such petitions have been filed with the city clerk for an office as are to be elected to such office, the candidates whose petitions have thus been filed shall be deemed to have been nominated to such office and their names shall be voted on for such office at the succeeding regular election, and the city clerk shall not print those candidate’s names upon the ballot to be used at the preliminary election and no other nomination to such office shall be made.
Section 7-3 Regular election
(a) Information to voters
For any candidate in a regular city election who is an elected incumbent of the office that is sought, next to the candidate’s name shall appear the phrase “candidate for re-election”.
(b) Ballot position
The order in which names of candidates shall appear on the ballot for each office in a regular city election shall be determined by a drawing by lot conducted by the city clerk in the presence of such candidates or their representatives as may choose to attend.
Section 7-4 Districts
The territory of the city shall be divided into 6 districts so established as to consist of as nearly equal a number of inhabitants as it is possible in compact and contiguous territory, bounded insofar as possible by the center line known streets or ways or by other well-defined limits. Each district shall be composed of voting precincts established in accordance with the laws of the commonwealth.
Section 7-5 Applications of state laws
Except as expressly provided in this charter and authorized by laws of the commonwealth, all municipal elections shall be governed by the laws of the commonwealth relating to the right to vote, the registration of voters, the nomination of candidates, the conduct of preliminary and regular and special elections, the submission of charter amendments and other propositions, the counting of votes and the declaration of results.
Citizen Participation Mechanisms
Section 8-1 Free petition
The city council or the school committee shall hold a public hearing and act relative to every petition which is addressed to the council or school committee, which is signed by 150 voters or more and which seeks the passage of a measure. The hearing shall be held by the city council or the school committee or, in either case, by a committee or subcommittee thereof, and the action by the city council or the school committee shall be taken not later than 6 weeks after the petition is filed with the clerk of the council or the secretary of the school committee, as is relevant. Hearings on 2 or more petitions filed under this section may be held at the same time and place. The clerk of the council or the secretary of the school committee shall mail notice of the hearing to the 10 persons whose names appear first on the petition at least 7 days prior to the hearing. Notice, by publication, of all such hearings shall be at public expense.
Section 8-2 Citizen initiative measures
(a) Commencement of proceedings
Initiative procedures shall be started by the filing of an initiative petition with the city clerk. The petition shall be addressed to the city council or the school committee, shall contain a request for passage of a particular measure set forth in the petition and shall be signed by not less than 20 per cent of the total number of voters.
Signatures to initiative petitions need not appear on a single paper. All such papers pertaining to any 1 measure shall be fastened together and shall be filed in the office of the city clerk as 1 instrument, with the endorsement thereon of the names and addresses of the persons designated as filing the petition. With each signature to the petition, shall be stated the place of residence of the signer, giving the street and number, if any.
Within 10 days of the filing of a petition, the registrars of voters shall ascertain by what number of votes the petition is signed and shall attach thereto their certificate showing the result of such examinations.
The city clerk shall forthwith transmit the certificate with the petition to the city council or to the school committee, as appropriate, and at the same time shall send a copy of the certificate to the persons designated on the petition as having filed it.
When the certificate has been so transmitted, the petition shall be deemed to be valid unless written objection is made with regard to any signature thereon by a voter within 48 hours after such certification to the city council or the school committee by filing such objection with the city council or the school committee and a copy thereof with the registrars of voters. The validity of any objection to the certification shall be determined in accordance with the laws of the commonwealth.
(b) Referral to city attorney
If the city clerk determines that a sufficient number of signers are voters, the city clerk shall submit a copy of the petition to the city attorney.
Within 15 days after receipt of the petition by the city attorney, the city attorney shall advise the city clerk in writing whether the measure may be proposed by initiative procedures and whether it may be lawfully passed by the city council or the school committee. If the opinion of the city attorney is that the measure may not lawfully be passed, the city attorney shall state the reason or reasons therefore in such reply. The city clerk shall forthwith furnish a copy of the city attorney’s opinion to the person designated on the petition as having filed the petition.
(c) Initiative petition: requirements for passage and submission to electorate
If any initiative petition is signed by voters equal in number to at least 20 per cent of the total number of voters and, in the opinion of the city attorney, such measure may be lawfully passed by the city council or school committee within 30 days after the date of the certificate of the registrars to that effect: (1) the city council or school committee may pass such measure without alteration, subject to the referendum vote provided in this charter; or (2) the city council shall call a special election to be held on a date fixed by it not less than 60 days but not later than 90 days after the date of the certificate herein before mentioned, and shall submit the proposed measure without alteration to a vote of the voters at that election; provided that if any city election is otherwise to occur within 120 days after the date of the certificate, the city council may, at its discretion, omit the call of a special election and submit the proposed measure to the voters at such approaching election.
(d) Ballot question
The ballots used when voting upon a proposed measure under this section shall state the nature of the measure in terms sufficient to show the substance thereof by preparation of a fair, concise summary by the city attorney and approved by the registrars of voters.
The full text of the measure shall be published in a least 1 local newspaper at least 7 days before the election at which the question shall appear on the ballot. The full text of the proposed measure shall be made available at city hall and the public library for a minimum of 14 days before the election and at polling places on the day of the election. The ballot used when voting upon a proposed measure under this section shall contain the question in substantially the following form:
Shall the following measure that was proposed by an initiative petition take effect?
(text of measure summary) Yes_____ No_____
If a majority of the votes cast on the question is in the affirmative the measure shall be deemed to be effective forthwith, unless a later date is specified in the measure.
Section 8-3 Citizen referendum procedures – referendum petition; effect on final passage
If within 10 days after the final passage of any measure a petition signed by voters equal in number to at least 5 per cent of the total number of voters, and addressed to the city council or to the school committee, as the case may be, protesting against such measure or any part thereof taking effect, is filed with the city clerk, the same shall thereupon and thereby be suspended from taking effect, and the city council or the school committee, as the case may be, shall immediately reconsider such measure or part thereof. If such measure or part thereof is not entirely rescinded within 30 days, the city council shall submit the same, by the method herein provided, to a vote of the voters either at the next regular election or at a special election which may, in its discretion, be called for the purpose. Such measure or part thereof shall forthwith become null and void unless a majority of the voters voting on the same at such election vote in favor thereof. The petition described in this section shall be termed a referendum petition and section 8-2 (a) shall apply to the procedure in respect thereto, except that the words “measure or part thereof protested against” shall for this purpose be understood to replace “measure” in said section wherever it appears and “referendum” shall be understood to replace the word “initiative” in said section.
Section 8-4 Required voter participation
For any measure to be effective under the initiative or referendum procedure, at least 20 per cent of the voters shall vote at an election upon which an initiative or referendum question is submitted to the voters.
Section 8-5 Measures not subject to initiative and referendum
Measures, which include the following subject matter, shall not be subject to initiative or referendum procedures:
(a) revenue loan orders;
(b) appropriations for the payment of debt or debt service;
(c) internal operational procedures of the city council and the school committee;
(d) emergency measures;
(e) the city budget or any appropriation contained therein, the school committee budget or any appropriation contained therein or the capital improvements program or any item contained therein;
(f) appropriation of funds to implement a collective bargaining agreement; or
(g) procedures relating to election, appointment, removal, discharge or any other personnel action.
Section 10-6 Voting districts
Notwithstanding the designation of Amesbury as a “city” as set forth herein, Amesbury shall not be divided into wards for any purposes of the General Laws.
SECTION 2. This act shall be submitted for acceptance to the voters of the town of Amesbury at the next regular or special town election in the form of the following question which shall be placed on the official ballot: "Shall the charter approved by the Municipal Council in the year 2011 be adopted?"
Below the question shall appear a fair and concise summary of the proposed charter prepared by the town, particularly with regard to how it differs from the current charter, prepared by the town attorney. The town shall mail to the residence of all voters in the town the proposed charter set forth in section 1 of this act and the existing charter or a single document identifying the proposed amendments, the related ballot question and summary, and a brief explanation of the process for consideration of same.
If a majority of the votes cast in answer to the question is in the affirmative, section 1 shall thereupon take effect in the city, but not otherwise.
SECTION 3. Notwithstanding section 42C of chapter 54 of the General Laws and any other general or special law to the contrary, the vote taken by the town of Amesbury at the municipal election held on November 8, 2011, to adopt the charter approved by the Amesbury Municipal Council in the year 2011, as set forth in section 1, and all actions taken in reliance thereon and pursuant thereto, are hereby ratified, validated and confirmed, as if this act had been in place prior thereto.SECTION 4. Sections 2 to 4, inclusive, shall take effect upon passage.
Approved, December 21 , 2011.