Low Attendance of Members at Mayor’s Task Force Meeting

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The Mayor’s Task Force met in a short meeting Thursday which was held without calling a roll and quite likely without a quorum present. Chair Tracey Jeffries called for the members to introduce themselves, but also called on observers at the public meeting, creating confusion as to which individuals present were members of the Task Force. As originally presented, the Task Force was intended to be composed of 27 persons, there were 12-13 members present, including Mayor Ella Jones. Although Mayor Jones has previously explained that the Task Force is a Committee that is called a Task Force, and thus within the Mayor’s authority to appoint, it is clearly not following the City of Ferguson’s Boards and Commissions Manual last issued by the Mayor in 2020. This lack of parliamentary control also meant that a structured format for public comment and a business portion for the task force members was missing.

Jeffries welcomed everyone to the reconvening of the Mayor’s Community Task Force. Jeffries turned the meeting over to Mayor Jones to “explain briefly the Sunshine Laws so we can make sure that we are meeting the compliances of the city moving forward.” As Mayor Jones explained “One of the citizens had brought it to the attention of the State Secretary that we were holding meetings and we didn’t post some of the meetings, so we post all the meetings. Meetings are supposed to be posted within 24 hours. It was nothing in anything secretive or anything else, we was just excited.” [Note: Thursday’s meeting was the first and only meeting ever posted, all previous meeting failed to follow state law. Additionally, meetings are to be posted with at least 24 hours of notice, not “within 24 hours.”]

Mayor Jones then made the surprise announcement that anyone attending on the zoom could ask to join the Task Force by submitting contact information into the chat feature of Zoom.  Two people submitted contact information, but one acknowledged already serving on a city board.

She then went on to say that “the purpose of the Task Force is to engage our business community, from various levels, and see we got our HUD representative, we got our former police, State Patrol, Ron Johnson, we got bankers, of course, got the University of Missouri St. Louis here… We have Washington University representative Jack Kirkland who supplies our practicum students. We have Maryville University, we have Webster University. So, the purpose of it is to engage and collaborate with everyone who makes up the community.”

Shirley Emerson introduced herself as a Ferguson resident, President of the Forestwood Community Development Corporation, and a field instructor for the Brown School of Social Work who works closely in supervising “our practicum students.” Emerson gave the subcommittees as:

Housing and Neighborhoods, led by Orlando Sharpe

Jobs and Economy, led by Chris Bray

Education, led by Jackie Lewis-Harris

Environment, Well-Being, and Place, led by William Humphrey

Development, Transportation, and Mobility, led by Joshua Davis

None of the leaders of the subcommittees were present at Thursday’s meeting.

Jeffries stated that the next step is to send out a Google poll to determine when the next meeting and various subcommittees will be held.

The brief meeting raises more questions than answers regarding the viability of the Task Force. The low attendance of members, especially those in leadership roles, is concerning. At the Special Meeting in April Mayor Jones indicated that the subcommittees would soon be providing reports of their individual work. Yet when information from the at least seven meetings held was released publicly, the text was a muddled mess of duplication and showed no clear direction or purpose of the work done. These reports had been posted on the city website, but the page they were linked to has since been wiped blank. More troubling, the City’s link as seen on this page to appears to supposed to be a list of “Community Task Force Members” leads only to a document by Tracey Jeffries’ Capital Consulting Services Company that repeats the same text as on the web page it links. Referring to the list of names given at the Mayor’s Town Hall last year introducing the Task Force that some of the most highly touted names have never attended a single meeting.