Additional details from other agenda items in the meeting will come later, but in a quick highlight summary of tonight’s meeting:
A series of public comments about alleged conflicts of interest were made, including a rebuttal by Nick Kasoff to the claim made by Alan Mueller that the ethics ordinance needs to pay attention to such details as school and church affiliations. At close of the comments, Mayor Jones firmly stated that, “Mr. Kasoff made allusion that the Mayor and a developer may go to church together. I don’t attend church in Ferguson and I don’t attend church with any developers. So I want that to be made clear.”
A presentation of the Civilian Review Board was made, reviewing their work for the past five years. The Observer plans to provide a separate story on this Board and their report when time allows. Residents should be aware that there are now four vacancies to be fulfilled and applications are being sought from interested residents.
The agenda was amended to include the item considering eligibility of Amanda Canaday to serve on the Mayor’s Charter Commission. (See story here on how a member participating in the first meeting was not qualified to serve due to being two years in arrears in paying for taxes.) Mayor Jones informed the council that Canaday had called her to say that her taxes had been paid. Council member Linda Lipka responded that the issue was that the member was disqualified from serving when appointed and when the meeting was held. Council member Heather Robinett then took the floor and made a motion to remove and abolish the Charter Commission, as she did not feel it was needed. Mayor Jones responded “I don’t think you can abolish a committee that has been appointed by the Mayor.” Robinett responded, “I think I can.” Attorney Ryan Harding, substituting for City Attorney Apollo Carey, reviewed the City Code and found that the council does have the authority to abolish offices or departments, or agencies, and that he believed that would include a special committee. Robinett’s motion was seconded by Council member Toni Burrow. The motion was passed, with Burrow, Robinett, Lipka, and Palmer voting yes and Jones, Nelson, and Noah voting no.
Mayor Jones opened discussion for the NPSC’s (Neighborhood Policing Steering Committee) recommendations to amend the conflict of interest ordinance. Mike Palmer raised the question of what the mission and purpose of NPSC was, and pointed out that he did not understand what the conflict of interest ordinance had to do with law enforcement. Mayor Jones explained that from time to time they look at different policies and this is one they looked at and asked for council to discuss. Heather Robinett made a motion to dismiss the discussion. Robinett began to explain that the city should be under state statute, but was cut off from speaking by an interruption made by a member of the public, Annette Jenkins. [Note: regular readers may recognize this was not the first instance Jenkins has interrupted the proceedings of council meetings.] With the floor returned to Robinett, she stated that wanted to make a motion to dismiss the NPSC recommendations. “I think this is very punitive… NPSC should not be looking at this. Like stay in your lane. You’re looking at policing. This isn’t their lane.” The motion was seconded by Toni Burrow.
Council member Phedra Nelson responded that she did not understand why this could not be discussed. It was confirmed by the Mayor that with the motion and second it was open for discussion. Nelson again said “I guess I’m not understanding why we can’t go through this and discuss it. I don’t understand that.” At that point Toni Burrow began speaking, while Nelson continued to saying what was only partially caught in the cross talk as “…is being abolished too.” Burrow asked the Mayor for help with this. Nelson then continued, “I was asking the question, the madness now and don’t disregard my questions.”
Council member Naquittia Noah expressed concern that the council wasn’t listening to the community. Linda Lipka responded that was inaccurate, the council did listen to the NPSC, and they have read through their document. Lipka continued on, “I’ve read through the document many times… I’m actually much more intimately aware, engaged with this particular conflict of interest ordinance more so than any of you on city council. I’ve already worked with this in court. So to say that we have not, or in assuming that any of us have not been engaged in this process, I personally will tell you I have been very engaged.” The motion was restated and voted. The motion was passed, with Burrow, Robinett, Lipka, and Mike Palmer voting yes and Jones, Phedra Nelson, and Naquittia Noah voting no.