After Mayor Kent Ketcher asked for citizens' input, Councilman John Dalgarn began Monday's Miami City Council meeting by standing up for free speech by allowing citizen input on all topics whether on the agenda or not.
“Mayor, I'd like to address that issue right now if I could. The way it's worded is not the way I voted when we voted a couple of meetings back on what we wanted as to citizens input. I think that we all voted the same way at that time and I think we need to follow that vote. I believe that Councilman Trussler made a motion to place the item after the Pledge of Allegiance with no restrictions other than it be done in a respectful manner... and I'd like to see it returned to that wording that we voted on,” Dalgarn said.
Councilman Terry Atkinson said that he also planned to talk about the issue at this meeting.
“We've left one word out, we left “not” out. Like he said, we didn't want any restrictions on anybody coming before the Council speaking. The way it reads now it's, items on the agenda only, that's not what we agreed on.”
Councilman Rudy Schultz agreed that Dalgarn's, “reading of the minutes is accurate,” when asked for comment.
Atkinson added, “We had a pretty lengthy discussion on this... I'd like for anybody to come up and be able to speak in a respectful manner and I don't want them to have to be put on the agenda, whether we like what they are going to say or don't like what they're going to say. I like for people to be able to come tell us what they think.”
“So, you would like the word “not” to be placed back on and that would open it for a free discussion of anything they want to say?” Ketcher asked.
“Yes, that's the way that we wanted it. That's the way the council voted," Atkinson said.
“I voted with you but I didn't agree in principal. Sometimes I vote yes and I don't agree with it,” Ketcher said.
“Well, there's times when there's issues that come up that I haven't agreed to and I didn't like to vote, but you know, I live with it,” Atkinson said.
“I'm not the only one that votes no anymore,” Dalgarn said.
Schultz said that the city attorney David Anderson had advised on this particular topic that absent any specifics in the City Charter the mayor runs the meetings. “The Mayor made a determination a meeting or two ago to deviate from that and according to the city attorney he has the authority to do that. When I asked him after the meeting, because I was surprised, he said, if you guys want to do it different you need to vote on something... I think he was looking for something more precise,”Schultz said.
Anderson then said his legal opinion is that the Council makes the determination and sets its own rules.
“What I meant to say before was in the absence of the City Council setting procedural rules on specific matters the mayor is left holding the gavel and left to make those decisions,” Anderson said.
He said that once the Council voted to set rules the entire Council is bound by those rules until it votes differently, and that he believes the rule was in effect.
Councilman Scott Trussler then commented that he was in agreement with Anderson's opinion.
“My concern is a different issue in the way we conduct ourselves as Council members, in that it was very simple we used to just pick up the phone and call somebody and say, 'Hey, I just don't understand we did this a different way and not this way.We continually seem to come to a loggerhead on all kinds of issues, and this is the simplest of issues, public comment....No one picked up the phone and called, and I realize that's a two way street,” Trussler said.
Trussler went on to say that he believes it's the Mayor's prerogative to run the meeting. He said he would like the council members to go back to calling each other to discuss issues beforehand.
Mayor Ketcher said, “I stand corrected then.”
Mayor Ketcher then announced that citizens' input would be back on the agenda as the council had voted previously with no restrictions to comments other than a three minute time limit and respectful conduct.