City Council Frequently Asked Questions
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The 2019-2021 Council is composed of the following:
- President of Council Jeffrey S. Waltman
- City Council District 1 Lucine Sihelnik
- City Council District 2 Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz
- City Council District 3 Melissa Ventura
- City Council District 4 Stratton P. Marmarou
- City Council District 5 Donna Reed
- City Council District 6 Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz
All powers not specifically given to others by the Home Rule Charter are exercised by City Council. City Council acts as the legislative branch of City government.
You can contact any member of Council through the Council Office via:
- Post Office Mail 815 Washington Street, Reading PA 19601
- Voicing concern to the Council staff office, located on the second floor in City Hall
You can also speak with City Council by calling in to the In Your District program, airing at 8 p.m. every Thursday on the BCTV MAC Channel 99.
You can determine which Council district you live in by clicking on the Council Districts Map link on the Council page of the City’s website or by calling Council staff at 610-655-6204.
Linda A. Kelleher is the City Clerk for the City of Reading and has been serving City Council since she was first appointed in January 1996. The City Clerk acts as the Secretary to the Council, or Secretary to the Board of Directors. The City Clerk is the Director of the Legislative Branch, responsible for managing the operations of City Council by providing leadership and administrative support, implementing Council policies and providing quality services to the people of Reading.The City Clerk maintains accurate legislative records and performs other services to the body of Council such as public relations, drafting and reviewing ordinances, legal research and acting as a liaison with the City Administration and other entities. The City Clerk assists Council in areas such as setting agendas, developing a Council Action Plan and coordinating appointments for the City's Boards, Authorities and Commissions.
Council meetings are held on Monday evenings. The meeting schedule is listed at the bottom of each regular meeting agenda.
- First Monday 5 p.m. - Nominations and Appointments Committee - Council Office and Strategic Planning Committee– Penn Room
- Second Monday 5 p.m. – Committee of the Whole – Penn Room
- Second Monday 7 p.m. – Regular Council Meeting – Council Chambers
- Third Monday 5 p.m. - Nominations and Appointments Committee (if needed) - Council Office,Finance, and Committee of the Whole – Penn Room
- Fourth Monday 5 p.m. - Committee of the Whole – Penn Room
- Fourth Monday 7 p.m. - Regular Council Meeting - Council Chambers
Additional meetings are added and advertised as needed through newsprint or City website announcement (readingpa.gov).
Our City laws are located at the Code of Ordinances link on our web site. If you cannot print the law you are interested in, please call the Council Office at 610 655 6204 to request a copy or for assistance. The online Code of Ordinances is updated electronically with the passage of legislation.
You can address the body of Council at their Regular Business Meetings held on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month and at Public Hearings held to address specific topics. Council does not allow public comment at Committee Meetings, Committee of the Whole Sessions.
Citizens wishing to address the Council at its regular meetings may do so by giving notice verbally or in writing by providing their name, address and the subject matter to be discussed to the City Clerk before 5 PM the day of the meeting. Citizens can register by calling 610-655-6204 or by entering their information in this form. Citizens may also register by printing their information on the form provided on the speaker podium in Council Chambers after 5 pm and before the start of the meeting.
Citizens speaking on agenda issues may speak for up to five minutes at the beginning of the meeting. Those speaking on general matters may speak for up to three minutes after the Council action on the legislative matter is complete. When the City Clerk signals that your time is complete, we ask that you quickly conclude your remarks and be seated.
Citizens who are interested in matters before Council but who cannot attend meetings in person have two other options. Meetings are televised live on the MAC Channel (Comcast channel 99) and through the City’s website. Simply scroll to the bottom of the home page and click “Live and Archive Meeting Videos”.
If you would like to serve on one of the City’s Boards, Authorities and Commissions click here, print an application, fill it out and mail it to the Council Office – 815 Washington Street, Reading PA 19601. If you cannot print a copy, call the Council Office at 610 655 6204 to request one and the Council staff will be happy to assist you.
The proper operation of democratic government requires that public officials and employees be independent, impartial and responsible to the people; that government decisions and policy be made in the proper channels of governmental structure; that public office is not to be used for personal gain; and that the public have confidence in the integrity of its government.
In recognition of these goals, there is an established Code of Ethics to be administered by the Board of Ethics. The purpose of this Code is to establish ethical standards of conduct for all officials and employees of the City of Reading, its agencies and authorities, whether elected or appointed, paid or unpaid, by providing guidelines to clarify actions or inactions which are incompatible with the best interests of the City and by directing disclosure of private, financial or other interests in matters affecting the City.
The provisions and purpose of this Code and such rules, regulations, opinions and disciplinary decisions as may be promulgated by the Board Pursuant hereto, and under provisions of Article XII of the Charter, are hereby declared to be in the best interest of the City.
Any person may file a complaint about alleged ethics violations of the Reading Code of Ethics or the City Charter. A complaint form may be requested through the Board of Ethics liaison, Michelle Katzenmoyer, by calling 610 655 6205, upon request from the Council staff office, or by clicking here. In addition, the Board may initiate proceedings by its own action.
A person signing a complaint shall:
- Reasonably believe in the existence of facts upon which the claim is based.
- Reasonably believe that the complaint may be valid under the ethics provisions of the Code of Ethics and the City Charter.No official or employee may be penalized for a good faith filing of a complaint with the Ethics Board, or providing information or testifying in any Board proceeding. An employee may not be discharged, suffer change in his/her official rank, grade or compensation, be denied a promotion or be threatened as a result of any of the above.
All Board proceedings and records relating to an investigation are confidential until a final determination is made by the Board, except as may be required by due process. The final order is a public record. All other file material must remain confidential. The Board, however, may release the identity of a complainant if it has determined that there has been a wrongful use of the Code of Ethics.
The Home Rule Charter acts as the “Constitution” for the City of Reading. It sets the operational rules for our government. The City Administrative Code, found in the Codified Ordinances, is used to further define Charter provisions. Copies of the Home Rule Charter may be acquired through publication provision of the City Council staff office and it is also available online.
The Charter Board, created under the 1st Amendment to the Home Rule Charter, hears and decides all complaints alleging violations of the Charter and Administrative Code. This Board is also responsible for providing orientation for all elected officials.
- Reasonably believe in the existence of facts upon which the claim is based.
- Reasonably believe that the complaint may be valid under the City Charter and/or Administrative Code. No official or employee may be penalized for a good faith filing of a complaint with the Charter Board, or providing information or testifying in any Board proceeding. An employee may not be discharged, suffer change in his/her official rank, grade or compensation, be denied a promotion or be threatened as a result of any of the above.
The State provides for three forms of government in Pennsylvania:
- Commission – established under the Third Class City Code
- Optional Third Class Charter Law – established under the Third Class City Code in 1957
- Home Rule Charter Optional – established by the State General Assembly in 1972, apart from the Third Class City Code
The Commission Form of government has a Mayor and City Councilors all elected at-large. The Mayor presides over Council meetings but has no additional power. Al these elected officials perform executive duties and direct the city departments. Under the Commission form there is no single or administrative officer to oversee the operations of the City.
Home Rule Charter Optional provided for 2 structures:
- Strong Mayor / Part-time Council
- Council / Manager
Reading voters approved the Home Rule Charter Optional form of government with a Strong Mayor / Part-time Council in the November 1993 General Election. The executive, administrative and law enforcement powers of the City are vested in the Mayor. The Mayor shall control and be accountable for the executive branch of City government.
City Council is the legislative body having all powers of the City not otherwise provided for in this Charter, exercised in a manner to be determined by Council. Council shall provide for the exercise and performance of any such other powers and duties in a manner consistent with the terms of the Charter. All powers of the City shall be exercised as provided by the Charter, or if the Charter makes no provision, as provided by ordinances or resolutions of the City Council.
The Charter defines the City’s Departments and sets out requirements for professional department directors, who report to the City’s Managing Director, appointed by the Mayor and approved by Council.
The City Clerk's Office houses a variety of current and old city records.
The City of Reading Code of Ordinances has many features in addition to the current city laws. This book provides references to applicable state and federal legislation. The Code of Ordinances also includes a key that provides the disposition of all city streets, improvements, vacations, etc. The key can also provide the researcher with the history and disposition of city ordinances. The Code of Ordinances have been available on-line since 1999, with updates done annually. The Code of Ordinances can also be found in the Main Branch of the Reading Public Library and the Berks County Law Library.
The office also holds the Journals of Council that include the ordinances and resolutions adopted dating back to 1854. Other old records include departmental reports, solicitor's opinions, Board of Health records, tax assessment records, Water Bureau reports, etc. Unfortunately, record retention and archiving diminished between the 1960's and 1995. In 1996 staff in the City Council/City Clerk's Office restored the practice of records retention and archiving, and the staff is currently working to digitize current and old city records so they are more accessible to the public.
Citizen Initiative and Referendum are two ways that citizens not holding political office may present legislation for the City. The two opportunities are as follows:
Initiative: The qualified voters of the City shall have the power to propose ordinances to the Council. If the Council fails to adopt such an ordinance, the initiative process would place the proposed ordinance before the voters as a referendum at an election, providing the City voters with the opportunity to adopt or reject the ordinance at a City election.
Referendum: The qualified voters of the City shall have the power to require reconsideration by the Council of any adopted ordinance. If the Council fails to repeal an ordinance so reconsidered, the Referendum process may be commenced giving the qualified voters of the City the opportunity to approve or reject said ordinance at a City election.
Under the Home Rule Charter, the City of Reading is divided into six districts, with each district electing one Council member. District-elected Council members are to represent the voice of their constituents and are to act as a body to make decisions in the best interest of the entire City. Boundaries mapping out the six districts of the City can be found on the City website. The President of Council is elected at-large. The President of Council is the presiding officer of Council and has the same voting powers as the other six Council members. The President interacts with the Mayor and other governmental entities and represents the voice of Council.
- Election year:
- Maximum contribution by individuals - $2,600
- Maximum contribution by organizations - $10,400
- Maximum contribution by campaign committees - $10,400
- Non-Election year:
- Mayor – contributions may not exceed $150,000 per year
- Auditor – contributions may not exceed $75,000 per year
- City Council President may not exceed $50,000 per year
- City Council may not exceed $25,000 per year
- Post Election
- Maximum contribution by individuals - $2,600
- Maximum contribution by organizations - $10,600
Penalties and Remedies
Penalties included in the Code of Ethics are admonition, public censure, suspension, termination, referral to other authorities, ineligibility to hold public office, fines of up to $1,000 per violation, administrative fines of up to $1,000 per violation, payment to the City of the sum of any financial gain made as a result of the violation, barring of participants from any City business dealings for up to five years, and payment of restitution.
In addition, the Board may order the subject to cease and desist from engaging in a specific activity, order specific action to come into compliance, institute civil action, and recommend forfeiture of office to City Council.
Please review the Code of Ethics for complete information. The Code can be found on the City’s website at www.readingpa.gov.
Candidates must notify the City of Reading Board of Ethics when a political committee is formed and must submit a form to the Board of Ethics. Please get full details from the Code of Ethics.
Candidates must file a Financial Interest Statement and provide a copy to the Board of Ethics and must submit a copy of their State report of receipts and expenditures to the office of the City Clerk along with a written statement signed by the filer swearing that the information is true and correct.
These provisions will be available on the City of Reading website – www.readingpa.gov on the Board of Ethics page – at all times.