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November 1, 2010 by wcobserver

Council Split on Decision

By Steve Winkler

West Fork- The format and length of the city council meeting minutes will remain the same after a divided council voted 4-4 on Oct. 12 to keep the minutes in the same format as they’ve been written since Susan Cooney was elected clerk.  A second vote to amend the resolution in an attempt to find compromise failed, 5-3.

Mayor Jan Throgmorton chose not to cast a vote that could have broken the tie.  The Mayor’s vote can only break a tie with a “yes” vote.  Council members Justin Harris, Misty Caudle, Charlie Rossetti, and John Foster voted to keep the minutes as they are.

“I have not spoken to people about what they want… I need to ask people what they want if I’m going to have to vote on it. So I’m not going to vote.”

The length of the minutes provided by City Clerk Susan Cooney has been a contentious issue at council meetings for several months. The mayor presented a resolution for the council’s approval during the September meeting which would have forced the city clerk to draft her minutes according the Robert’s Rules of Order.  The resolution was tabled to allow council members additional time to research the issue and talk to constituents.

On Oct. 12 city council members came prepared for a robust discussion.

Council Member Harris said he spoke with about 20 constituents and none wanted to shorten the minutes.

“I’ll have to stand up for them and say I do not want these minutes changed,” said Harris who said the council’s job is to find out what the citizens of West Fork want.

Council Member Rodney Drymon presented examples of other city council minutes from neighboring cities.  He noted that the towns used summary versions in their minutes, yet, “we get accused of hiding stuff.”

Council member Joan Wright favored minutes similar to school board minutes that were “cut and dried,” suggesting that a summary was enough, “you don’t need to know who said what.”

Rossetti said he didn’t have trouble with length of minutes and suggested that maybe a compromise could be reached without the resolution.

At one point Wright offered that the local newspaper record the minutes.  “The Observer had a pretty good run down on what was said… Isn’t it sufficient for the public that the Observer report whatever the Observer wants to report and we have our minutes to satisfy our needs for record of what has been done in terms motions made and carried?” Mayor Throgmorton disagreed.

“It’s our job”, she said.

Caudle suggested having a council member help decide what issues should be covered in more detail in the minutes. Attorney Rusty Hudson pointed out that that is probably the role of the clerk to begin with.

At one point, Harris said he had not heard a good reason why the minutes should be shortened.

“Bottom line is we read them and enjoy reading them.”

After much discussion, Wright proposed an amendment to the resolution that would “include a summary of relevant points or comments which address support or opposition to the motion.”  The amendment was voted down 5-3, with Council Members Drymon, Rossetti, Foster, Harris and Caudle voting no.

There was discussion about the availability of the meeting minutes ahead of the city council’s approval.  Hudson confirmed that the Freedom of Information Act requires that the minutes be available to any citizen once they’ve been written, regardless of approval.

In other city council business, the council voted to retain the 5 percent county millage rate.

The city council meeting minutes will be available in their entirety at www.local.arkansas.gov.

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