Council members will continue to discuss a communication policy once they’ve all had the opportunity to read the Kansas League of Municipalities recommended policy.
Monday night’s work session was the second meeting in which council members set aside the topic of how to best run its meetings.
According to a city ordinance, the city council meetings will use Robert’s Rules of Order to conduct meetings, however the parliamentary procedure is rarely used.
“The only time we’ve ever used Robert’s Rules is when someone has called the question,” council member Kristina Harrison said.
Mike Press, interim city administrator, told the council Robert’s Rules of Order may not be the most efficient way to run a meeting. Last week, council members briefly considered a draft communications proposal Press wrote. The draft included provisions that: “Members should refrain from discussing others (sic) motives regarding matters that are under consideration;… Any council member who wishes to ask a question will be first be recognized by the Mayor or designee;…Direction to staff to research, evaluate or follow-up on any substantive matter that comes before the city council is provided by the Mayor with the concurrence of the majority of the council.”
But Press said council members can pick and choose provisions from several different places to construct a policy.
“The policy should allow you to conduct business in the way you’d like to conduct business – open and that is transparent to the public,” Press said.
Members spent considerable time discussing how items are placed on the agenda. Currently, the mayor sets meeting agendas.
“It’s a council meeting. If a council member wants to put something on the agenda, we should be able to,” council member Larry Fotovich said.
Robert’s Rules of Order allows council members to amend an agenda with a two-thirds majority.
“But that’s not how we operate here,” assistant city administrator Melissa Mundt said.
Harrison worried that late additions to council agendas will not give members enough time to research potential issues that come before them.
Specifically, Fotovich worried about how a council member would add an executive session to an agenda. Executive sessions, or private meetings, can be conducted for a few reasons listed in the Kansas Open Meetings Act.
Executive sessions can be held to discuss non-elected personnel and legal issues that require attorney-client privilege.
“If you have an issue for executive session, you can’t sit out in an open meeting and say it,” Harrison said.
Typically, council members do not know what is to be discussed in executive sessions before members withdraw to private chambers.
Mayor Dave Drovetta said agenda items need to be vetted to keep efficiency in the organization.
“If we have five different people wanting five different items on every agenda, then we won’t get anything done,” Drovetta said. “There’s no need to talk about items that staff can’t work on based on their current priorities.”
In other business, council members:
• discussed when council packets, information pertaining to agenda items, are distributed. Currently, council members receive information the Thursday before a Monday night meeting. Staff agreed to try to put the packets in council members’ hands as early as the Tuesday prior to a council meeting.
Fotovich requested that be put in an ordinance as existing ordinance only requires that council have the information 72 hours prior to a meeting. However, council members decided see how well meeting an earlier deadline works before drafting a policy.
• discussed receiving a list of upcoming agenda topics as early as two months in advance.
• discussed receiving a weekly memo from city staff about current projects and issues.
The next council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 at city hall.
Gardner city council considers communication policy