HAMMOND — City Council members on Tuesday debated whether they have authority to appoint council members to serve on city commissions and committees.

It turned out they do not.

The issue arose during a discussion of what kind of representation the council ought to have on the Planning Commission as it implements the newly adopted Hammond Comprehensive Master Plan.

Councilman Lemar Marshall helped spark the discussion by announcing he was withdrawing his proposal to have the council president appoint a council member as a liaison to work with the Planning Commission.

Marshall said a number of city residents had worked for the past two years to help put together the Comprehensive Master Plan formally endorsed by the council at its Aug. 2 meeting.

The council, Marshall argued, therefore needs to play a “proactive” role in assuring that the master plan gets implemented.

Mayor Mayson Foster told Marshall that the 1977 home rule charter specifically designates the mayor, not the council, as appointing authority for memberships of city commissions and committees.

“If the council thinks that it should have a more direct role in who gets appointed to boards and commissions,” Foster said, “then it should approach the Charter Commission that is now reviewing the charter and ask for changes. Take it to the Charter Commission and the people of Hammond if you want a change.”

Marshall, who declared he has read the charter “at least four times,” replied that the charter does not forbid the council from appointing its members to commissions, boards and committees.

Marshall, who has been on the council since January, urged the council to take the lead in city government and become more engaged in the city’s  business instead of “just voting yes or no when something is brought before us.”

Asked about the cost of preparing the Comprehensive Master Plan, Foster said the city spent $75,000 on the plan and a matching grant of $75,000 was chipped in by the Northshore Foundation.

City Attorney Andre Coudrain explained that council members are welcome to attend and offer comments at Comprehensive Master Plan meetings. Council members may not vote, but they can offer suggestions, he said.

Councilman Mike Williams asserted that that he didn’t see why the matter had become an issue and questioned why an official resolution would be needed for council involvement in implementation of the plan.