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Council Representative Admonishes Peers

By Staff | Sep 25, 2008

I wish to express my concern regarding the differences of philosophy demonstrated at the last council meeting. It appears that we have two different approaches regarding the function and operation of our City Council. The prevailing notion is that all questions regarding matters pertaining to the City should be addressed to our City Administrator prior to the Council Meeting. It is preferred that decisions are made in private, outside of the public eye, and without discussion in public. If a committee our group has reached a decision, the Council is to accept that decision without question or further thought. Asking questions or deliberating any issues is not just discouraged, it is sanctioned, and as a Council member, I am tired of the frequent attempts at bullying and intimidation when an issue requires further discussion. Since coming on the Council, I have been called “unprepared” and “disrespectful” – and worse – by fellow councilmen and our city administrator simply because I have asked questions and requested proper procedures are followed when a matter requires further scrutiny. When issues are pushed through and procedures are followed, even when the majority of the Council votes in favor, we often then later need to go back and clean up, as we will do here tonight in a few minutes.

I firmly believe that open discussion in public regarding matters pertaining to the council is vital to Emmetsburg. Open discussion is not for my personal benefit, it is for the benefit of every citizen of our town. Indeed, it is the Law and our mandate as council members. When matters are discussed openly and thoroughly in the “Sunshine,” public confidence and trust is built. Currently, many segments of our population do not trust us, and this is a direct result of these decisions made outside of public meetings.

A separate, but related, issue is that of disrespectful behavior. As I have said repeatedly, good people can (and will) disagree from time-to-time. At the last meeting I was very troubled by the level of disrespect demonstrated towards Mayor Schad. While I do not always agree with Mayor Schad, I do respect his right to his opinion, and I respect the Office of the Mayor. The language, both verbal and nonverbal, used towards Mayor Schad is disappointing. Again, I believe that engaging in this type of behavior is not only disrespectful, but harmful to the process of governing, and therefore harmful to our citizens.

In conclusion, I request that we implement the following interventions to remediate the situation:

1. Implement a Code of Ethics policy, signed by every member of the Council and the City Administrator.

2. Request the City Attorney be in attendance at all Council meetings. In many cities, the city attorney regularly attends city council, as well as other city meetings, to provide legal advice when it is most critical to do so.

3. Begin Work Meetings on complex issues, such as the budget and budget amendments.

4. Within the next year, conduct a Council inservice with the help of the League of Cities to establish goals for the Council.