Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

June 19, 2014

City OKs meeting rules over objections

CROSSVILLE — Over the objections of two members of the council, a set of standing rules and procedures for city council meetings was approved by a majority of the council that requires a council member putting something on the agenda to provide enough information that other council members and the public will know what is to be acted upon.

The item had been part of the consent agenda, normally approved with out discussion, but this item was pulled out of the consent list by Councilman Jesse Kerley. Kerley said he had concerns about items, including the requirement that “Each item on the agenda shall have sufficient explanation to indicate its intent, so as to allow for proper preparation by city council members and city staff. The mayor and city manager shall have the authority to request more explanation prior to an item being placed on the agenda.”

Kerley said he wanted the final sentence of that item pulled out of the rules. “I feel like that if you feel like you are putting enough information in there to bring it to council, it is council's decision if they want to vote on it or not. If I want to put something on the agenda to bring before this council, that's my right given to me by the taxpayers of the city of Crossville. I just don't feel like the city manager or the mayor have the right to take that away from me.”

City Manager David Rutherford said the reason for the rule was so that “people have the opportunity to know what will be discussed, and possibly acted upon, at the council meeting. And we have had in the past, some items that have been 'matters relative to' whatever, and it doesn't give enough information to the public.”

The other complaint Kerley had concerned the requirement for people who want to speak to the council on a specific agenda item or during the time of public comment at the end of the meeting to register with the city manager or city clerk at least 24 hours before the meeting. This rule also applies to council work sessions. Kerley said, “That needs to be removed because I think it will deter people from getting up to speak out at meetings. I think somebody should have the right to stand up here and speak if they have the urge at the end of the meeting.”

Rutherford responded, "Mr. Kerley has a point. It is nice to let people make comments. But it is nice to know if there will be a lot of people speaking in order to schedule time. A lot of cities in Tennessee have similar rules.”

Kerley said that for the last 18 months, people have had the chance to speak at the meetings, as directed in the city charter, and it has worked well.

The rule states that a person may speak no more than twice and for no more than 5 minutes. The time of the public comments is limited to 15 minutes and, if more than three people register to speak, some may be moved to the following month's agenda. The rule also states that the requirements may be waived by a majority vote of the council.

Councilman Pete Souza said there are three reasons to have a council meeting. One is to conduct the business of the city; two, so that elected officials can bring awareness to the public; and three, to listen to the public, to what they have to say. Souza added, “I'm in concurrence with everything Mr. Kerley said. This is an important document that's being presented. I believe its essential that we do something like this.”

Souza said that he felt if a councilman wants to bring something to the attention of the public but no action is being sought from the council, he feels information on the basic topic should be adequate.

Councilman Danny Wyatt said he felt the resolution was a good one as it was presented and he felt the city staff and management did a good job.

Wyatt moved to approve the rules as presented and Mayor J.H. Graham III supported the motion. Voting in favor of approving the rules were Councilman George Marlow, Wyatt and Graham. Voting against were Kerley and Souza. The rules were approved.

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