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Springfield voters to weigh mayor term, code of ethics change on April ballot 

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Springfield City Council voted to place two items on the April 2 general municipal election ballot at its regular meeting yesterday. 

One item would lengthen the term of future city mayors to four years from two while continuing to cap their service at eight consecutive years. The other would revise the city charter’s code of ethics policy for elected officials, appointed officers, board members and employees. 

There was disagreement among council about whether to put the extended mayoral term on the ballot. Councilmember Brandon Jenson voted against it, while Councilmember Monica Horton abstained from voting. Mayor Ken McClure recused himself out of what he called an abundance of caution; however, if passed by voters, the first election it would apply to is in 2025, after McClure’s last term is completed. 

Horton said it is desirable to align with similarly sized cities whose mayors have four-year terms. However, she cautioned that residents of two council zones, 2 and 3, could lose their ability to influence the numeric majority on council because voters from those zones may be less likely to vote in mayoral elections when their zone candidates aren’t on the ballot. 

Jenson expressed his opposition to the measure. 

“Accountability and transparency are key tenets for a functioning democracy, and this proposal serves to reduce the number of accountability checkpoints that citizens have on the most public-facing leader of our city,” he said. 

Jenson added that he has heard the argument that less frequent elections would allow the mayor to focus energy on leading the city rather than having to focus on reelection. 

“We need look no further than our current mayor to know that this is not, in fact, the case,” he said. “Mayor McClure has led the city through some of the most challenging times in modern history while spearheading the adoption of a truly comprehensive plan, and yet was still reelected all four times, so for me, this reasoning doesn’t hold true.” 

Councilmember Craig Hosmer supported the measure. He noted that it was not a matter of council changing the policy, but rather voters would make the determination. 

“I think any time you submit something to the voters that’s clear and understandable, the voters can make that decision,” he said. 

The decision to put the code of ethics language on the ballot was unanimous. That measure would subject city employees who violate the code to disciplinary action up to and including termination. Current charter language provides only for termination for employees with an ethics violation. Elected officials, appointed officers and board members would still forfeit their position for a violation, as the current code dictates. 

The charter change also would require council to review its ethics policy every other year. 

At a meeting of council’s Committee of the Whole on Jan. 3, City Manager Jason Gage estimated the cost of putting the items on the ballot at $130,000-$140,000. 

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