Workshop minutes adopted over Mayor’s objections

By SHELLY WILKISON

Managing Editor

The Mayor’s disagreement with how a public workshop was posted was disregarded Monday as the Council adopted minutes of a March 6 meeting showing a quorum of council members were present during a three-hour open house where they heard  input from citizens on the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

Claiming the presence of the Mayor does not count toward a quorum for a special meeting, Mayor Jamie Williamson abruptly left a workshop at 5:09 p.m. March 6 — six minutes before the meeting was called to order by Mayor Pro Tem Connie Fuller. In addition to Mrs. Fuller, Councilmembers Wendell McLeod and Elizabeth Branigan were present. Councilmember Liz Rundzieher arrived one hour later.

“Based on three (Council members) there at 5:15, there was not a quorum for a special meeting,” Mrs. Williamson said. She suggested the Council take no action on adoption of the minutes of the meeting.

“Why did you not wait until 5:15?” Mrs. Fuller asked the Mayor, who quickly responded that the law does not require her to wait on absent members for a specific period of time.

The format for the workshop was designed to be a come and go event where elected officials and city staff could hear ideas from citizens about the development of a long-term plan for the City. The informal conversations about the plan were facilitated by a consultant hired by the Council to assist with development of the plan document. Large posters were displayed containing city demographics and maps, as well as some components of the plan, which was first created in 2004.

At the workshop, Mayor Williamson loudly protested the manner in which the agenda was posted claiming that because it included language calling the meeting to order and later adjournment that it constituted an official meeting.

Asked why she was leaving the meeting without waiting on a quorum, Mrs. Williamson told The Independent March 6 that “I don’t want any part of that (possible meeting violation). If he (City Manager Greg Boatright) is unsure how to post for a public workshop, well…This was not my meeting. I didn’t call this meeting. I think it makes the input not valid, and Mr. Boatright will have to bring that to us (the Council).”

City Attorney Art Rodriguez, who approved the meeting agenda before it was posted, said there was nothing incorrect about how the agenda was written and posted. It was formatted correctly for the meeting’s stated purpose.

Based on information that only three council members were present when the meeting was called to order, Councilmember Vicki Brewer, who did not attend the workshop and provided no public explanation for her absence, moved that the council take no action on the minutes. The motion failed 3-2 with McLeod, Mrs. Fuller and Ms. Branigan voting no, and Mrs. Brewer and Mrs. Rundzieher voting yes. The Mayor can only vote to break a tie.

Mrs. Branigan then moved that the minutes be accepted with corrections noting that Mrs. Rundzieher was present. The motion was adopted 4-1 with Mrs. Brewer voting no.

“You do understand that a special meeting requires four and this was called to order by three?” Mayor Williamson asked Mrs. Branigan.

“We will let it stand,” said Ms. Branigan.

Because meeting agendas were also posted for the city boards and commissions indicating a possible quorum of members might be present for the workshop, the Parks & Recreation Board also called a meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. as a quorum of its membership arrived.

Consultant Joseph Cantalupo of K-Friese and Associates said the input gathered from attendees last week will be considered as  an update to the Comprehensive Plan is developed over the next two months.

“This is kind of a gut check update,” he said. “Whether five or 50 people come in, the goal is to give the community a chance to participate in the process.”