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Council discusses members attending committee meetings
Council members will not be allowed to attend city committee meetings unless they are posted as special meetings.
At the April 15 work session, Councilman John Clauson expressed concerns about a quorum of the council being present when a fourth council member attends a committee meeting with three council members already present.
Each standing city committee is composed of three council members. There is a quorum of the council when a fourth council member attends.
“How do we deal with committee meetings that results in quorums?” Clauson asked.
He noted that councilwoman Bek Ashby had been attending several committee meetings in order to “get up to speed on what’s going on.”
“The problem I see, is that we are creating a special meeting.” Clauson said.
City Attorney Greg Jacoby said there are two issues at hand.
“It’s very clear that when a committee of three council members get together, we have posted notice of the meetings and that the public is welcome to attend,” said Jacoby. “The problem is when a fourth council member attends the meeting.”
Jacoby said Ashby asked him before she was elected to the council if it was okay to attend the committee meetings, but there were “notice issues to keep an eye on.”
“She has attended some committee meetings during the first quarter,” he said.
He said according to state law and the Open Public Meeting Act, once a fourth member joins the committee meeting, it is no longer a committee meeting, but a special meeting. State law doesn’t prohibit a fourth council member from attending a standing committee meeting provided there is notice of a special meeting, according to Jacoby.
“However, the city council has adopted its own rules with respect to this issue,” said Jacoby.
He said, according to city code, council and committee meetings are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order which stated unless the committee is hold a special hearing or information gathering in which it invites member of the council and the public to come speak.
“Unless that’s the action, the general rule is that members of the larger council or assembly shall not attend committee meetings unless invited,” Jacoby said.
He said unless the council changes the city code, a fourth council member cannot attend a committee meeting unless the committee invites the council member to attend.
Clauson said he feels it’s unfair for other council members that are not there, because of the potential that a decision could be made that obligates the city and not all members would have an opportunity to be a part of the discussion.
During the April 14 council work session, Ashby said that she had been attending several committee meetings since she was elected to the council in November. She said she started attending committee meetings in February 2013 when she decided she wanted to be a council candidate.
Ashby said she would like see all the committee meetings held in Council Chambers at City Hall. She also thought those meetings should be recorded.
“That would make it open and transparent to the public and then I could look at them and get all the information I needed,” she said. “That would be an easy remedy.”
But Clauson said the schedule of some committee meetings are based around some of the council members’ employment.
“It’s an issue of trying to fit those in and around the rest of our lives,” he said.
He suggested the committee meetings could be recorded with a tape recorder, if needed.
Councilman Fred Chang noted that digital sound files can be uploaded to the city’s website for the public to access.