PORTLAND – The City Council rejected an amendment to Portland’s initiative and people’s-veto procedure Wednesday, deciding that allowing multiple petitions would add to the city clerk’s workload and make it too easy for the public to change ordinances adopted by councilors.

The 5-4 vote ended a string of meetings on the issue that began last year — including a 4-4 vote at the council meeting on Nov. 21.

“This proposal is about any group being able to change any city ordinance. That’s the issue we need to be mindful of,” said Councilor Cheryl Leeman, who opposed the measure.

Under the current system, any group that wants voters to adopt or change an ordinance is given a deadline to collect a certain number of signatures and present them — as one document — to the City Clerk’s Office. The office then has 15 days to certify that the group has enough signatures from registered Portland voters.

Councilor David Marshall proposed the amendment after Sensible Portland fell 93 signatures short of getting a question on the Nov. 8 ballot asking voters to make enforcement of marijuana laws a low priority.

Hundreds of the group’s signatures were invalidated because signers were not registered voters.

Marshall said his proposal would have allowed a group like Sensible Portland to file petitions on a rolling basis, creating a transparent process that would let such groups gather additional signatures if they were falling short.

But City Clerk Katherine Jones said providing a running tabulation of valid signatures would significantly increase her staff’s workload. “I think the process we have in place works,” Jones told the City Council.

“To change the (petition procedure) over one incident is not compelling enough for me,” said Nicholas Mavodones, who served as mayor pro tem at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mayor Michael Brennan, who disclosed last week that he had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his small intestine, asked Mavodones to preside over the meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Brennan thanked residents for their phone calls, emails and letters demonstrating their support after he disclosed he had been diagnosed with cancer.

“I am recovering but I’m not recovering as quickly as I’d like, which would be tomorrow,” Brennan said.

Brennan, who appeared to be in good spirits, stayed at the meeting for about 50 minutes before leaving — he voted in the minority on the petition issue.

Also Wednesday, the council voted to:

Appoint Lawrence Walden as associate corporation counsel. The Peaks Island resident’s annual salary will be $71,623. Walden, whose wife works as a teacher in Portland, will concentrate on real estate and economic development issues.

Reduce the number of council committees from nine to six. Each committee will now have four members instead of three.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]