Thursday, November 21, 2013

Vote On Replacement P&Z Members Postponed

At Thursday's organizational Common Council meeting, the vote on replacement members for the P&Z was delayed after Republican Council members expressed a concern that the vote would be illegal, and could cause legal challenges to every P&Z decision thereafter.

Council member Jim Streeto expressed his confidence that the meeting and the vote was legal, but he deferred to the opinion of City Attorney Brig Smith who said it would be wise to delay the vote until the first regular Council meeting (December 2), because he did not have time to thoroughly research the consequences of a vote at last night's meeting.

The Council voted unanimously to delay the vote until December 2.

The meeting progressed in fits and starts after the Democratic caucus asked for a recess to consider a letter delivered to the Council by Planning and Zoning alternate Beth Emery.  The letter expressed Emery's willingness to serve as a regular Planning and Zoning member.

After the caucus, the meeting flow was then interrupted by the challenge to the vote.

The vote on organizational matters proceeded as planned, and progressed quickly, after which the meeting was adjourned.


Anonymous said...

Is this a real post, Ed? Sounds like April Fools day has arrived way early!

Anonymous said...

could anyone give more explanation about the legality question - what is the reason why the members thought that the vote would be illegal? Why was the matter scheduled to be voted on if it could be an illegal vote? I don't fully understand this situation and would appreciate if anyone has more insight/ our new political season sure is getting off to a rocky start! thanks

Anonymous said...

Y'all need to put your big boy pants on, quit yer complaining and move on.

Ed McKeon said...

Apparently, the City Charter calls for an organizational meeting to set committee work for the Council. In the past two decades, a separate meeting was called, sometimes on the same night, to fill vacancies on Boards and Commissions. Republicans on the Council felt a separate meeting needed to be called and noticed to the public.

James Streeto said...

Hi Ed--

I don't read the charter that way. Maybe i missed it (i reviewed the charter on my iPhone that night) but i didn't see the words "organizational meeting" anywhere in the charter (although the agenda is labeled "organizational meeting").

The charter seems to differentiate between "regular meetings" (first mon of the month) and "special meetings" (all the other meetings, including emergency meetings, a sub-class of special meetings called by special means). Appointments can be done at either a regular or a special meeting. This was a special meeting (which included as agenda items the counsel's organizational items). That's just my opinion, though--the General Counsel hasn't examined the question.

The republicans were, IMO, on more solid ground in pointing out this hadn't been done before (which doesn't mean we couldn't have done it, of course). I believe it suited some people's sense of organization that it be done in a separate meeting--some of my colleagues noted that this was the way they remembered the appointments being done in the past. Precedent and tradition are relevant guides, although they're not binding on the council as they are on a court.

From a logical perspective--what difference does it make? If you serve two separate envelopes on all the council people with two agendas, or serve one envelope on them with one big one--same result. Notice is precisely the same, delivered the same way. Everyone is made aware what you are talking about--isn't this a hyper technicality? I believe a court would definitely see it that way, if this issue was litigated.

So why postpone the vote? Because its PZC. Every disgruntled PZC applicant can take an appeal to superior court, potentially. If an appointment is made under a cloud (because it is publicly asserted by members of the appointing body that the appointment is illegal) that can be one of the grounds for that appeal. We would IMO ultimately prevail--but we'd have to either pay a lawyer to defend the cases, or tie up our city attorneys defending them.

Since we were scheduled to have our regular meeting 10 days after the organizational meeting, and PZC won't meet in the interim, there seemed no reason not to be ultra-prudent here, and defer the vote. As I said--in my opinion, it would have been perfectly legal to vote on it wednesday night. But why create a cloud if its not necessary?

The General Counsel's responses clinched this for me. I believe he took a prudent and measured approach--you can't ask an attorney to give you an opinion in 5 minutes without research, anymore than you can ask your doctor to tell you whether there's anything wrong with you without tests.

Jim Streeto

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, Jim.