April 25, 2014

Council considers rules to govern itself

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
In a lengthy discussion, Gardner City Council members attempted to reach consensus on a document that would govern how council meetings are run.
The 15-page document addresses council organization and duties, conduct, meetings and schedules and guidelines for meeting behavior. It was designed using meeting rules from several area entities including Overland Park, Olathe, and Johnson County.
It’s an issue the council has discussed since a council meeting resolved into shouting and former council member Dennis Pugh drove to council member Larry Fotovich’s house following the meeting. Pugh tackled him, punched him and was charged with a misdemeanor. He resigned from the council, and former interim-city administrator later suggested the council consider rules of meeting conduct.
During a Dec. 10 work session, Fotovich said the proposed rules conflict with existing ordinances that govern council meetings, including one that says the meetings should be run using Robert’s Rules of Order.
“Explain to me why we need this document,” Fotovich said. “This takes all the information we have in ordinances and chops and rearranges them.”
Other council members and the mayor, however, argued that Robert’s Rules of Order does not translate well to municipal meetings. For example, there is no Sergeant of Arms.
Council member Chris Morrow said he’s not opposed to a new policy that does not use the book.
“If it’s easier to digest and understand and apply,” he said.
The group seemed to reach a consensus that the rules should include a provision that allows the public to address the council on specific issues on the agenda as the topics are broached in the meetings. Currently, members of the public are asked to address the council at the beginning of the meeting before discussion on specific agenda items takes place.
Council members briefly debated a discussion about the existing policy in which the mayor appoints into vacant council seats, but the group agreed to hold off on that discussion until it could be put on an agenda.
Mayor Dave Drovetta said it will be placed on an agenda shortly after the new year.
Parts of the proposed policy are vague or subjective, Fotovich said.
For example, one section reads, “Council members shall treat each other and everyone with courtesy and refrain from inappropriate behavior and derogatory comments…. And govern themselves as to the length of their comments.”
“Who is the arbiter of what’s inappropriate or vague?” Morrow asked. “I have faith in people here. I know it when I see it, I guess.”
Council member Kristina Harrison requested that the council policy require that the city attorney must be present during executive sessions.
“We’re paying him to provide his guidance,” she said.
Currently, there is no contract between the city and its attorney, Jim Hubbard.
At one point, council members briefly discussed whether they should enter into a contract with their attorney. Council may consider the issue at a different meeting.
Fotovich worried that the new rules would be used to shut down the flow of information.
“It’s already been run that way, and now with this, we’re going to codify it,” Fotovich said. “I’m not in favor of any of it. We have rules on the books that have not been followed.”

Comments

  1. Judith Rogers says:

    Fotovich is right on one point – if they don’t follow the rules they have had, how is a new format going to change things? And I say this as I have watched them, in my opinion, violate the Open Meeting and Open Records Act time and time again.

    I do, however, want a change in how the citizens should have the ability to be the last entity voicing their opinion or asking questions on any item on the agenda, new business or consent agenda and then having their questions answered and/or their opinions considered. I have asked for this change for years now with the city of Gardner ignoring my pleas. After all discussion is completed on any one item, I want the Mayor to ask if there is any citizen who would like to provide their opinion or ask more questions for clarification or request more study before a vote is taken on a matter and with all of the new technology I would hope in the future for a citizen to be able to speak, ask more questions, etc. from their homes. So many times I, as a citizen, have had many more questions to be answered after the Council has discussed an issue or I want my opinion to be voiced. I want that same consideration to be made available thru expanded and complete information on each and every item to be given with the meeting agenda so the citizens can have ample time to study a matter and I want that window of information expanded to more than maybe 1 or 1.5 days notice they now get which is not sufficient advance time. I want them working with a 2 week window – give me an agenda two weeks in advance and I say the Council members need that advance time too so they may hear from constituents before voting. Before the vote is taken, the citizen needs to have the last word and that process followed on each and every item. The present system of citizen input before anything is discussed and limited as to when they speak or ask questions is lousy in my opinion. I think some, I believe some Council members and/or City Staff, shudder to think of this scenario because they think they will lose control. Our city government is the people’s government and they should certainly be the core of any and all communication.

  2. Judith Rogers says:

    Do you ever wonder why education and health care costs are so high? This article might enlighten you some but just the tip of the iceberg………….

    http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/07/13/10-Insanely-Overpaid-Public-Employees.aspx#page1

    Does Jo. County, the state of Kansas, USD 231 and the city of Gardner allow employees to get paid for unused sick leave? If so, how much is the practice costing citizens???/

  3. Judith Rogers says:

    I received the following notification today. This issue could be very important to every citizen, especially here where you will be living in a hellhole of trucks, trains, crime, pollution, etc., etc. Politicians who bring you an Open Carry state would not hesitate to bring you this additional risk exposure that will.cost you so much in road maintenance costs along with increased personal risks involving these overweight trucks and don’t you love the conniving, manipulating way they bring these risks to you via an amendment to a relief bill for citizens who so need help. This is another example of why I hold practically all politicians in such contempt in today’s world.

    ********************************************************************************************

    Dangerous Truck Weight Exemption

    Slipped Into Sandy Relief Bill

    Please make 2 Quick Calls/Emails To Your Senators NOW

    December 19, 2012

    This week, the Senate began debate and will likely vote on the Superstorm Sandy Relief bill, HR 1. Senator Kohl (WI) just added an amendment to the bill seeking a special interest weight exemption which will allow bigger and heavier trucks on U.S. Highway 41 in Wisconsin. If adopted, it would result in a back door deal allowing overweight trucks in excess of 80,000 pounds and would provide a dangerous precedent for other states to allow overweight trucks on their own highways. This exemption does not belong in the Sandy relief bill, and in addition, the bi-partisan passed “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act”, MAP-21, (Pub. L. 112-141) contains a provision for a two year study on the safety, infrastructure and economic impacts of allowing increases in truck size and weight (TSW) limits. The Senate should not allow any special interest exemptions before the Congressionally mandated study is completed.

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