Friday, January 20, 2012

New Council Organization an Emergency?

At the Tuesday, January 17th City Council meeting, three agenda items were walked in by the City Council leadership. The three agenda items walked into the meeting were:

  • Agenda Item 21 which was 1st reading of an ordinance to amend the campaign finance laws.
  • Agenda Item 22 which was a resolution to create a new position titled Legislative Operations Manager and establishing a salary range of $2,292.80 to $3,300.00 bi-weekly.
  • Agenda Item 23 which was a resolution revising the position of City Clerk with a salary range of $1,936 to $2,727.20 bi-weekly.
It is interesting to note that Agenda Item 21 was actually listed on the regular agenda along with the  ordinance language document for public view. However, the Regular Agenda did not list Agenda Items 22 and 23, nor were the resolutions on the city's website for view by the public. Council Vice Chair Erpenbach made a motion to add these three agenda items to the regular agenda and Council Chair Aquilar seconded the motion. In order to act on the immediate action by Councilors Erpenbach and Aquilar, the action required an affirmative vote of at least 6 councilors. Everyone present voted yes.

Agenda Item 21 addressing changes to the campaign finance laws was vetted by Interim City Clerk, Sue Roust, at the January 9th Public Services Committee meeting . She publicly requested that the ordinance amendment be carried in after the deadline and gave her rationale for requesting the immediate consideration of the ordinance amendment. The Public Services Committee approved the action to carry it in at the January 17th meeting. There was no discussion of the Council Reorganization or carrying in agenda items creating a new council position or revising the current city clerk position at that meeting. There was no motion by the Public Services Committee to walk in Agenda Items 22 and 23.

Below is city ordinance language that speaks to agenda submissions and deadlines. The submission requirements are necessary to meet open meeting laws and public notice requirements.

Sec. 2-15.  Agenda.     (a)     All reports, communications, ordinances, resolutions, or other matters to be submitted to the council for consideration shall be delivered to the city clerk's office no later than 10:00 a.m. on the Monday one week prior to the council meeting. If the Monday one week prior to the city council meeting is a holiday, the deadline is 10:00 a.m. on the preceding Friday. All documentation requiring council action will be delivered to the city clerk's office in its complete and final format. The city clerk's office shall prepare the agenda in both paper and electronic format and will furnish each member of the council, the mayor, and the city attorney with access to the information after 1:00 p.m. on the Wednesday prior to the city council meeting.

     (b)     During consideration of new business, the mayor or any two city council members may bring before the city council any business that person feels should be deliberated upon by the city council. These matters can be added to the agenda by a vote of six city council members and will be considered under new business. Formal action on such matters shall be deferred until a subsequent city council meeting, unless consideration is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety of the municipal government. If the city council chooses to take immediate action on the newly calendared agenda item, and notice to the public is provided as set forth in SDCL 1-25-1.1, an affirmative vote of six members of the council is required for approval.
(Ord. No. 50-95, § 2, 3-20-95; Ord. No. 52-11, § 10, 7-11-11)

Why did the Council Vice Chair and Council Chair carry in Agenda Items 22 and 23 relating to the Council Organization? Certainly the consideration of these two items do not rise to the level necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety of the municipal government. Yet, the council chose to take immediate action on these two council positions at the meeting on January 17th in spite of this ordinance requirement and no public notice.

The city council had just revised ordinance 2-15 back in July, 2011 to stop this kind of thing from happening. It went through the Public Services Committee which sent the revision to the City Council for adoption. Now, it seems, the council is breaking their own rules of law.

It is preposterous to think creating a new council position and revising a current job description was an emergency. This action was not vetted properly through their own committee structure and it violated their agenda ordinance language. It seems they can't even follow their own rules and begs the question what else don't they follow?

Open meeting laws and public disclosure and notice requirements are not supposed to become cavalier or a sometime rule. The Council leadership and the rest of the council just proved that anything goes when you want to get something done. Pretend it is an emergency and hope no one notices.

Is this good government?

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