Thursday night’s meeting of the Roswell City Council started with some contention among councilors as one member questioned if the council is following its own rules, leading to an argument among councilors and the mayor, who gave a strong rebuke to councilors to keep on track.
The meeting ended abruptly more than four and a half hours after it started when five councilors walked out during comments by Councilor Juan Oropesa, who, prior to the meeting, had asked for 13 of 14 items — all but approval of the October meeting minutes — be moved from the consent agenda to the regular agenda.
A consent agenda allows items, often routine ones, to be grouped together for approval in one action with no discussion rather than addressing them individually. Approvals of contracts, purchase agreements, leases at the Roswell Air Center and other items that are expected to have no opposition are often recommended to be placed on the consent agenda when they are considered by the city’s committees. Each councilor sits on two committees.
The City Council’s governing body rules of order state an item can be removed from the consent agenda at the request of any council member and will be considered immediately after approval of non-action items on the regular agenda, according to information provided by City Clerk Sharon Coll.
The first to leave as Oropesa started speaking near the end of the meeting were Councilors Jeanine Best, Jacob Roebuck, Jason Perry and Margaret Kennard.
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Councilor Barry Foster left about three minutes into Oropesa’s comments. As Oropesa paused to let him leave, Mayor Dennis Kintigh said the council no longer had a quorum and was no longer in open session.
“Without a quorum, we cannot conduct business,” Kintigh said.
“We are not taking any vote on that, Mr. Mayor,” Oropesa said.
“I understand that. We have lost the quorum. We no longer have a quorum,” Kintigh said over further objection from Oropesa. “The meeting is adjourned. Staff can go home.”
“And that’s exactly what I was talking about how you conduct the meetings, Mr. Mayor,” Oropesa said.
The livestream of the meeting then ended a few moments later.
City code says that a quorum consists of a majority of the council — six of the 10 members — and if a quorum does not exist, “only a motion to summon members, compel attendance or adjourn can be entertained.”
The entire meeting lasted from 6 p.m. to 10:33 p.m., with the 13 items that had originally been on the consent agenda taking about 2 hours and 10 minutes, not including a 10-minute recess at 8 p.m. City staff were on hand to give presentations on each item.
One of those items was a resolution to approve condemnation of property, with several residents of a mobile home park on the list — including a man who said he had a brain injury and was being treated for cancer and a woman who used a wheelchair — waiting more than three hours for a chance to speak.
In action to approve the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, Oropesa said he was the one who requested all consent agenda items except the minutes of the October meeting be removed from the consent agenda and said the city’s committee-council system has “gone off the rails.”
He cited two recent incidents as examples, a new fee schedule for the recreation department and the proposed zoo fees. The resolution on recreation fees failed to pass the General Services Committee in September on a 2-2 vote, but in October, was brought before the Finance Committee, of which Oropesa is a member. It passed that committee, 4-0. It passed the full council later that week, 8-2.
The zoo fees proposal was rejected 2-1 at October’s General Services Committee meeting, but Kintigh has said he expects it to be reintroduced for consideration in the future.
Oropesa said those examples have made him rethink what the purpose of the committees are.
“When I tried to process in my mind this system that I believed in seems, in my opinion, to have gone off the rails, I can only conclude that we have ambiguous policies or lack of policies at times,” he said in his six-minute-long commentary.
“I had to wonder if I am spinning my wheels and fooling myself in believing that my participation and voice are actually fruitful at committees that I am assigned to or even committees that I am not assigned to,” he said.
He vowed that, as long as he is not prohibited by law, he will consider no longer attending committee meetings and requesting all consent agenda items except for minutes be removed from the full council’s agendas in the future.
Following Oropesa’s comments, Best said it’s up to the councilors to trust the committees they are not assigned to to properly vet items. When each of the former consent agenda items came up for discussion, Best mentioned they had been removed from the consent agenda and then proceeded to ask questions of the staff member presenting the information, most of which received simple yes or no answers.
After the second item, a contract for new trash receptacles — in which she specifically mentioned Oropesa had made the request — Oropesa and Councilor George Peterson objected.
“If she has a problem with that, then she has to deal with it,” Oropesa said.
That led Kintigh to direct the councilors to stay focused on the issue.
“We don’t need to spend time picking at each other. We don’t need to spend time trying to impede each other or the city. We need to vote and act in the best interest of our constituents. So at this point I’m going to ask you councilors to please refrain from distractions to the job we have before us,” he said.
Councilor Barry Foster then spoke, arguing that even though the items had been removed from the consent agenda in a blanket move, they were now individual items on the regular agenda and councilors had the right to ask why each needed to be pulled.
That led to several minutes of the mayor pointing out Oropesa had stated his reasons and Foster defending his position, with each speaking over each other at times.
“The question has been asked and answered. Councilor Oropesa has stated repeatedly why he chose to do the things he chose to do. Nothing can be gained by repeating it over and over again,” Kintigh said.
When Perry, Foster and Best requested to speak again, Kintigh said he would let Perry speak but not Foster and Best.
“We are going back to the agenda,” Kintigh said over protests. “We are not going over this again.”
Foster was allowed to ask for clarification on the rule of order on removing items from the city attorney, but afterward Kintigh again refused to allow Foster and Best to speak, saying it was not fair to the city staff and threatening to go into recess again over protests from Best.
“You’ve made your point. Councilor Oropesa has made his point. Councilor Foster has made his point. We understand. Everyone here hears what everyone has said. Now is the time to move forward on this item,” Kintigh said, his voice growing louder as he spoke.
The meeting then continued with a vote on the trash receptacles. Each of the items that were originally on the consent agenda were passed.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.