Kicking the mayor out of office won't be too easy under a bill that passed through the Senate on Friday.

SB20 would force city councils to vote unanimously to strip a mayor of his power. The bill is an attempt to stop councils from taking the mayor's powers "willy nilly," said Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper.

"This I think is a high standard that would ensure when those duties are changed, that there is a high threshold on the part of the council and they cannot willy nilly take the powers of the mayor without the mayor's consent," Stephenson said.

Current law allows city councils to strip mayors of their administrative powers without a public vote.

Now, if the council wants to make any changes to the mayor's power, they must either get the mayor's consent or approve the change with a unanimous vote.

That's not enough for Sen. Dennis Stowell, R-Parowan.

"It's a high standard, but it's not high enough," Stowell said. "They'll just vote as a block.

The bill doesn't provide a check for "errant councils" who band together and vote unanimously to oust mayors, Stephenson said.

The Bluffdale City Council in Sept. 2006 voted unanimously — although they didn't have to — to remove Mayor Claudia Anderson's administrative powers. Current law only requires a majority vote.

The council was sick of the mayor's management style, treatment of staff, and disregard for city policies.

Voting to strip the mayor's power is just one card in city councils' deck. Under current law, councils can pass an ordinance and give the city manager the mayor's administrative powers.

The Lehi City Council voted down such a move a year ago.

Now, if SB20 passes, all changes to the city's form of government must go up for a public vote.

The bill is the result of more than 18 months of work for bill sponsor Sen. Carlene Walker, R-Cottonwood Heights. She lead a task force last year to clarify the problems that surfaced in Bluffdale and Lehi.

"We wanted to respect the voters," Walker said. "There were residents of these various cities who were very upset they elected a mayor and the powers and authority of the mayor had been undermined in their mind."

The bill now moves to the House.


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