Council vote to change meeting schedule deemed as void

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A vote made by the Bainbridge City Council last Tuesday to decrease the number of public council meetings was deemed a non-binding resolution by City Manager Chris Hobby.
Upon reviewing the vote to move from six meetings each quarter to four due to dwindling agenda items, Hobby consulted with city attorney Tom Conger, to discover the city charter outlines that change must come from an official ordinance and not a vote.
“Unfortunately I was sick during the meeting last Tuesday and I wasn’t able to weigh in,” Hobby said. “But my initial reaction was that I wasn’t sure that the council could take that action at one meeting.”
Hobby said he then consulted with Conger and they determined the city charter and the existing code would require, “that any change of the meeting schedule be done as an ordinance,” Hobby said.
This would require that the council be introduced to the ordinance of changing the meeting schedule at one meeting, holding a separate public hearing for input, then possibly voting following those comments.
“The charter has the effect of state law and that trumps anything that we do locally,” Hobby explained. “Charters spelling out that the meetings are prescribed by ordinance makes it mandatory under state law that we follow that procedure.”
As for the 4-0 vote by the council Tuesday to change the schedule, it is a non-binding resolution, and Hobby said could only stand as a stronghold for further votes on the subject.
“It may or may not predict the future outcome,” Hobby said of the previous vote.
Councilwoman Glennie Bench who brought the motion forth to change the schedule Tuesday, said she was not informed an ordinance needed to be created to change the meeting schedule.
“The idea that it was embedded into our charter was not something I was aware of prior to the meeting when this issue had come up before,” Bench said. “But the basis for the decision we made Tuesday, in my mind, hasn’t changed.”
Bench said she would still pursue the meeting schedule changes because she believes it’s a valid change to consider.
Mayor Edward Reynolds spoke in favor of the change at the meeting Tuesday. Reynolds said he would be glad for whatever the council decides to do next in moving forward, but expected the council would most likely vote on the ordinance being created and then await public comment on the subject.
Council members Luther Conyers and Roslyn Palmer spoke out against the decision that was made in their absence Tuesday. Both said they keep that belief and will wait to see what official ordinance is drafted to move forward.