Issue involves majority present vs. majority of council
By Bert Lehman
The Safety & Ordinance Committee for the city of Clintonville is recommending the city council change the city ordinance regarding common council voting and the number of votes required to pass a motion.
Alderman Steve Kettenhoven, who is not on the Safety & Ordinance Committee, asked that the item be placed on the committee’s agenda for its meeting July 6.
Kettenhoven was present at the committee meeting and explained to members that he thinks the ordinance should be changed to allow a motion to be passed by the common council by a majority vote of council members present at the meeting.
The current ordinance states, “All laws, ordinances, rules, resolutions and motion shall be passed by an affirmative vote of a majority of all the members of the Council unless an extraordinary vote is otherwise required.” This means a minimum of six yes votes is required, regardless of how many council members are present at a meeting.
“When we have seven people here and it gets voted 5-2, it still didn’t pass. I think that’s ridiculous,” Kettenhoven said. “How are you representing the people if a majority doesn’t rule?”
Committee chairwoman Gloria Dunlavy said she thought about the issue and is concerned that if all the representatives from the same district are not present at a meeting, that district is not represented.
Committee member Brad Rokus said that if all the representatives from a district are not present at a council meeting, that district is not being represented no matter how the ordinance is worded.
He added, “Either way you can get into gamesmanship. If you’re not liking something on the agenda so you’re just not going to show up, or you are going to make sure you are here for this one. I just don’t necessarily see the need to make the change.”
Alderwoman Mary Beth Kuester, who is not on the committee, said agenda items can be tabled until the entire council is present at a meeting. She added that she doesn’t want any changes to the ordinance.
Kettenhoven asked why a council meeting should be held if agenda items will be tabled if not all 10 council members are present.
“Whether it’s 4-3 or 5-2, if the minority wins, why are we voting? Who are we representing? I thought majority rules in this country, not a minority,” Kettenhoven said.
Later in the discussion, Rokus reiterated that he doesn’t like making changes to ordinances, but past history in the city had him rethinking this issue.
“No matter what your feeling was for the past city administrator, how many votes over the past 17 years was there to get rid of her at some point, and there were times where there wasn’t enough people there to get it done because of gamesmanship,” Rokus said.
He said the ordinance change would help get business done in the city.
Rokus made a motion to recommend to the city council to make the change to the ordinance to require a majority of council members present rather than a majority of the council. It was seconded by committee member Darrell Teall.
It passed 2-1 with Dunlavy voting no. Committee members Julie Stumbris and John Wilson were not present at the meeting.
After the vote, Dunlavy questioned whether the motion passed since it didn’t receive a majority of all committee members. She said at least three votes were needed.
“I believe I’m right on that,” Dunlavy said.
Kuester agreed with her.
Interim City Administrator Chuck Kell said the ordinance is only for the city council. Votes at the committee level require only a simple majority of the members present as long as there is a quorum, Kell said.
The item will be placed on the agenda for the city council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 14. Several other ordinance change recommendations will also go before the council at that meeting.
Changes to the voting rights of the city administrator on the Labor Relations Committee will not go before the council.
Kell said the ordinance currently reads that the city administrator is a member of the Labor Relations Committee.
“It didn’t say they were non-voting,” Kell said.
The change to the ordinance would clarify that the city administrator isn’t a voting member of the Labor Relations Committee.
Rokus said he thought the city administrator should be a voting member.
“They’re going to share their knowledge with everyone, but also with that they earn the right to vote on how their employees are going to be negotiated with,” Rokus said.
Dunlavy said the city administrator isn’t elected, so the city administrator should not be a voting member.
Dunlavy made a motion to make the change, but the motion did not receive a second.
After the motion did not receive a second, Clintonville City Attorney April Dunlavy told the committee the reason the city administrator should not be a voting member is to “eliminate any perceived bias they may have when working with an employee.”
Kell said it is his understanding that the Labor Relations Committee makes recommendations regarding labor contracts. The police department is the only department left working on a union contract.
“It’s unusual to have a staff member voting on a union contract,” Kell said.
He added that it could put the city administrator in a “bad spot” with other city staff members.
“I think recommending something is one thing, but actually voting on it is another,” Kell said.
Kuester said the city has been working to specify what the duties of the city administrator are, and as part of that committee she would have that committee bring to the council the recommendation to make the city administrator a non-voting member of the Labor Relations Committee.
“I think we can do that,” Kuester said.
After more discussion Gloria Dunlavy asked if there was a second to her original motion to make the city administrator a non-voting member. The motion did not receive a second.