July 22, 2014

Residents address council about meeting dysfunction

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
A subdued city council listened as three citizens, including the former mayor, asked that council members learn to work together with civility.
“You have a chance from this moment on to change the tenor of these council meetings,” former Mayor Carol Lehman told members. “The code of conduct is a good step, but it’s going to be up to each one of you to change the public perception. If need be, remind each other to stay on track and speak to each other and speak to staff with respect.”
Lehman urged council to wipe the slate clean after meeting debate spilled from council chambers to the front of council member Larry Fotovich’s house. Dennis Pugh resigned and has been charged with battery and criminal deprivation of property.
Steve Shute, Gardner, called the behavior of the council at the last meeting an embarrassment.
“I feel extremely embarrassed for this city,” Shute told the council. “I feel embarrassed for this council. Our city is being portrayed across the metro as a joke.”
Shute commended Pugh for stepping aside, but said it is distressing he waited a week and a half to do so and that Mayor Drovetta did not issue a statement saying that Pugh’s behavior is not to be tolerated.
“I don’t mind seeing council men and women engaged in healthy debate,” Shute said. “We went way over the line this time around.”
He noted that with the loss of Pugh, a majority of the council will again be appointed rather than elected. Pugh’s replacement will be the Mayor’s fifth appointment to the council. When Drovetta became Mayor in 2009, he appointed Steve Hale to fill the remainder of his own term on the council.
Drovetta appointed two more council members after council members Mary Peters and John Shepherd were recalled in 2010, and appointed a fourth council member after another council member resigned.
“Is this something that we want as a city? To continue to have these rifts that are going to continue to see people resign or be removed?” Shute asked. “…Put aside the differences, have lively debate, have a vote and get over it. Move forward.”
Resident Andy Copeland said he thought the recall election would take care of the problems of the council.
“I’d just encourage all to keep it in perspective,” he told council members.  “If people have ulterior motives, I just ask them to step aside.”
Lehman said part of that process should involve supporting the Mayor.
“When the Mayor has attempted to limit negative conversation, he’s been called a dictator,” Lehman said.
When he’s done less, people have said he lacks leadership, Lehman explained.
“Support your mayor. He has great vision for this community,” she said.
Council members briefly  discussed a propose communication policy that would establish a protocol for future meetings.
Interim city administrator Mike Press told council members one of the first things he noticed when he took over as interim director several weeks ago was that council members throw out questions without first being recognized by the chair.
“I’ve really never worked any place where that’s the protocol,” Press said.
Portions of the drafted proposal include 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.”
Council member Chris Morrow said there were several things in the draft that he’d like to discuss. Morrow also said he’d like to see council compare Press’s draft with a standard communication policy suggested by the Kansas League of Municipalities (KLM).
“I think it would save us some time this evening and give us more red meat to talk about next week,” Morrow said.
Currently the council uses Roberts Rules of Order, which council member Brian Broxterman called “archaic.” He expressed interest in reviewing the KLM’s recommended policy as well.
The proposal for discussion on Monday night sparked a few concerns for Fotovich.
“Any time I see the words ‘appropriate’ or ‘substantive,’ and there’s no person that decides what that is, I get a little nervous about free speech issues,” Fotovich said. “We’ve had lively discussions in the past – most of them never going beyond any extremes. We’ve been able to conduct ourselves for seven months with only two incidents.”
Council will discuss a communication policy at a work session on Dec. 12.
In other business, council members:
• approved the re-zoning of 642 E. Main Street, 1.7 acres that once housed CMI, from commercial industrial to commercial.
• rezoned land between Center Street and 183rd Street so that a new middle school and elementary school can be built should voters approve the USD 231 $73 million bond proposal in January.
• passed an ordinance requiring that trash containers used for refuse collection be no larger than 95 gallons. A revision to the ordinance also allows Johnson County Fire District No. 1 to issue burn permits rather than the city.
• tabled discussion and action on the city’s 2012 legislative agenda.

Comments

  1. State of Affairs says:

    Dear Neighbor– you must be smoking heavily. New shipment in from Mexico? or did you journey over to Edgerton? Oh, wait, hear the law raided a drug house there in Edgerton.

  2. State of Affairs says:

    “Merry Christmas!” “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, How lovely…”

  3. Maybe It's Us says:

    Looking at the percentage of recently elected officials who have either been recalled from office for their wrong-doings (Peters and Shepherd) or resigned from office for their wrong-doings (Thompson and Pugh) I have to ask whether or not this community really gives enough thought to who they vote for.

    Add in the bad behavior of Fotovich and the questionable leadership skills of Drovetta and Morrows, and I have to come to the conclusion that we’re not a very bright electorate.

    Maybe we should just allow the State to appoint our officials. We don’t seem to be very good at electing them.

  4. doesn't matter says:

    Oh, Judith how I have missed our little conversations.

    I see you are at it again, with all your name calling and harsh words….I see Therapy isn’t working, maybe a 12 step program or some anger managment might help out a little.

    I am going to say again, if you are not trying to help then you are part of the problem, you and your negative energy is just one more thing wrong with this whole thing.

    Just quit, let the negativity go, your hurtful words do no good on coming up with solutions to the problems that we are facing.
    I dont know if you were not hugged enough as a kid, I dont know if it is inner demons, but try to get some help. Plant a flower, sing some Christmas Carols, donate money to a charity, try to do some good…..if not i think this holiday season you just might get visited by Three Ghosts.

  5. Ben Dover ahn sei awh' says:

    Predict a scandalous lawsuit in 2 years with the mayor right in the middle of it!

    Place your bets…….

    Does anyone think it will be in less time?
    More time?

    Place your bets…….

  6. @doesn't matter says:

    Could you be more condescending?

  7. The problem isn’t the electoral intelligence. Maybe more like apathy, but that’s probably not even it.

    If I had to guess, I’d say that most of the voters in Gardner don’t really see how city government affects their day to day lives. Sure they’re worried about taxes and schools and the businesses in town. Some may even vote come election time, even if they’re just casting ballots without really knowing who they’re voting for.

    For those of us who are interested in what’s happening in our government, those who are drawn to it, the electorate may seem pretty apathetic.

    But it’s important not to judge people based on how they value the things WE think are important. People get involved in the things that make sense to THEM, in the ways that they live their lives. If some voters in Gardner aren’t really into local politics, or if they look only at all the angry people screaming at each other in the headlines, they are just as likely to either shrug away election day, even though their inaction could (or very likely would) affect them negatively down the road.

    Look at it this way…how often do you see a judge up for reelection on a ballot and have no idea who he or she is? Do you vote for them? Ignore them? By rights, people SHOULD be informed about who or what’s going to be on their ballots, but if they can’t see how it will affect them, or if they don’t feel like they have a direct reason to get interested in it, they’re either going to vote blind or not at all. It IS apathy in a way, but I’m not going to call someone ignorant just because they’re not interested in jumping into the melee between the vocal and extreme screamfest between Fotovich supporters and Drovetta supporters.

  8. @@doesn't says:

    Condescending? Have you ever READ any of Judith’s posts?

  9. @Maybe It's Us says: says:

    ……………”Maybe we should just allow the State to appoint our officials. We don’t seem to be very good at electing them.”…………..

    Which came first? The Intestine or the Tapeworm?………… William S. Burroughs

  10. Which is worse, Apathy or Ignorance?

  11. Doppio Derp says:

    I dont Know and I dont care!

  12. William S. Burroughs says:

    “You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.”

  13. Well I do find it interesting that there was some prediction about the city council.
    Video recording (Or videotaping if anyone actually still uses tape) will keep some of this old cowboy behavior at a minimum. However, I know that web casting is a relatively cheap operation these days. So the costs better be kept low! Or at least for the budget numbers being shot around use something besides Tape!

    I use to be Beta man myself. But VHS took it all away——–back in the 1980s :)
    Right after Video Killed the Radio Star

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