(Photo by Shannon Cay)

When Springfield voters head to the polls on April 2, they will not only elect three of seven candidates to the Springfield Public Schools Board of Education, but also consider a pair of amendments to the Springfield City Charter.

The ballot measures ask voters whether the mayor’s term should be extended from two years to four, and for the enactment of a code of ethics for elected officials, appointed officers, board members and city government employees, providing a defense for the policy’s violation and differing penalties for elected and appointed officials and city staff. Both ballot measures were approved to go to public vote by the Springfield City Council on Jan. 8.

Registered voters can cast their ballots from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. April 2 at their assigned polling places or one of Greene County’s five central polling locations. Voters can find sample ballots, polling locations and other voting information on the Greene County Elections website.

No-excuse absentee voting is available in-person Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 30 at the Greene County Elections Center, located at 1126 N. Boonville Ave. in Springfield, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on March 26-29 and April 1 at The Library Center, located at 4653 S. Campbell Ave. in Springfield.

Both ballot measures are listed on the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s Local Policy Agenda, and have been endorsed by the Chamber’s Board of Directors. Outside of their endorsement, there is no clear organized support or opposition for either measure.

Change would allow city staff to undergo disciplinary review

If approved by voters, Question 1 would establish a code of ethics for elected and appointed officials and Springfield city government employees. The policy would be up for review by the City Council at least once every two years.

With few exceptions, Section 19.16 of the city charter prohibits council members, officers, board members and city staff from having direct or indirect financial interest in any contract with the city or sale of land, materials, supplies or services to the city. Currently, a violation of the restriction results in forfeiture of office or employment.

The ballot measure would instead allow for employees to undergo disciplinary review, though they could still be subject to termination. In addition, a written advisory opinion from the City Attorney obtained and relied upon in good faith prior to a violation could be used as a defense by elected and appointed officials and city staff.

The provision was considered by the City Council as a means to prevent city employees from being automatically fired as a result of unrelated circumstances.

Question 1: “Shall Section 19.16 of the Springfield City Council be amended to require enactment of a code of ethics, to be reviewed by Council not less than every other year, revise provisions to address employee violations with disciplinary action up to and including termination, and add a legal defense to forfeiture of office or termination of employment if a prior, written advisory opinion from the City Attorney was obtained and relied upon in good faith?”

Benefits, drawbacks of two-year mayoral term

Springfield City Council members Matthew Simpson, left, Craig Hosmer, right, and Mayor Ken McClure participate in discussion during a City Council meeting on May 22, 2023 at City Hall. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Currently, Springfield mayors are elected to two-year terms and are prohibited from serving for more than four consecutive terms, or eight years. The city’s eight other council members — one is elected in each of the city’s four zones, with the remaining four elected at-large — are elected to four-year terms. If approved, Question 2 would extend the mayoral term to four years, while maintaining the limit of eight consecutive years in office.

Question 2: “Shall sections 2.1(1) and 2.6 of the Springfield City Charter be amended to provide for a four-year term for the mayor instead of a two-year term, with the four-year term to first apply at the general municipal election to be held in 2025, and with the maximum consecutive years a mayor may serve to remain limited to eight years.”

When the City Council voted to put the measure on the ballot, some members suggested two-year terms require a constant campaign mindset, restrict who could run for mayor and ultimately hinder progress, while others argued the two-year term provides voters a regular opportunity to hold the mayor accountable, and that a four-year term gives voters in mayoral elections more influence in determining the makeup of the City Council.

Former City Attorney Howard Wright expressed similar concerns of a four-year mayoral term in a December 2022 letter to the Springfield City Council.

The amendment would not take effect until the April 2025 general municipal election. Mayor Ken McClure, who recused himself from voting on the council bill that put Question 2 on the ballot, is term-limited in 2025.

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Hauxeda. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at jmcgee@hauxeda.com or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee