Sunday, January 19, 2014

Special Council meeting. Why is the public excluded from commenting on the expediture of a quarter of a million dollars?

Is Mayor Stanczyk really planning on authorizing the expenditure of $248,200.00 – a quarter of  a million dollars of our tax contributions without public comment on these items?  That is NOT transparency.  That is NOT promoting public input/involvement.  That is the opposite, it is stifling debate and participation in the very important future of our village. 

Not many people realize this money is being spent on Thursday (that is, if the meeting is not moved yet again).  These items are not titled “A resolution to authorize spending in the amount of $......”  The amounts are buried deep within the text of each item.  You have to hunt the text for the cost totals and cobble them to together as I listed below:

$  34,100.00  Item A
$120,000.00  Item B
$  60,000.00  Item C
$  34,100.00  Item D

There are 4 substantive items posted on the agenda; resolutions 3A, B, C, and D.  Procedurally there are 4 items:

1. Call to Order, Roll Call, Pledge of Allegiance
2. Decorum Statement
3. Resolutions (where the substantive items A, B, C, and D are placed)
4. Next meeting and Adjournment.

So them, as a very astute reader point out: Where is the ‘Public Comment’ section?

It was suggested to me that these items are being heard on a special agenda, a mere 12 days prior to the next regular council meeting, specifically to avoid an open and public debate on these expenditures.  None of these items constitute an emergency.  None of these items were heard at a prior council meeting where only the final vote is being rolled over to a special council meeting.

The media is less likely to attend a special council meeting (unless it is a very important or obviously controversial event). Fewer people show up or tune in for a special council meeting. Special council meetings are an outstanding opportunity to slip things in ‘under the radar’ as they say.

This is such a shame.  This is a great project to involve everyone in and move the village together as one, rather than begin to sow the seeds of distrust through these procedural shenanigans.
Just when did Palmetto Bay’s current leadership decide that fostering public comment and participation was something to be avoided?  We, the public, would be permitted public comment were these items heard at the regular council meeting set for February 3.  Sec. 2-47. Agenda procedures requires under subsection (a) that: Order of business. There shall be an official agenda for every regular and special meeting of the council that shall determine the order of business to be conducted at the meeting. The order of business of the council at the regular meetings shall be as follows: [Items (1) through (16) are listed]. Mayor Stanczyk, in setting this special agenda, set forth items (1), (2), (10) and (16), but clearly and consciously left out item (6) Request, petitions and public comments.

Here is the new discussion point for those of you following this: How many of you think they will informally allow themselves item, (15) Council comments, even though it is not listed on the agenda? And what is worse, how many people would stay home, after reading that there will be no public comment only to see later in the meeting streaming video that Mayor Stanczyk allowed her supporters to speak in favor? This, even though the meeting ordinance clearly requires that:

Sec. 2-44. (b) - Special meetings. Clearly prohibits the informal adding of items at a special council meeting:
An agenda shall be prepared for the meeting and no other items may be added, discussed or acted upon at the meeting. (emphasis added)
(yes, one could make the argument to get around this ordinance by arguing that the reference to “items” would mean not adding, discussing or acting upon any additional substantive items, such as a resolution 3.E. – but regardless, the damage would be done. People would would have liked to speak would have stayed home, and would be surprised to learn later that the agenda said one thing, but that mayor Stanczyk acted another way at the meeting. - This is neither transparency nor fairness in dealing with our local government.)

1 comment:

  1. It is not just the public that is being excluded. Please dig deeper. They are try to exclude any critic who sit on the council from the process as well.