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Revisit council ‘office meeting’

May 13, 2016
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

A 3 percent retroactive "pay parity" raise and a 1.7 percent performance increase for the city auditor.

Retroactive 3 percent raises for two council staffers.

A $36,000 redo to the council dais to move city staffers, such as the city manager, attorney and clerk, to new seating for up to 12 in front of the rostrum, giving the elected board a little more elbow room - in lieu of other discussed proposals including a complete $152,250 redesign.

A $73,000 office remodel and new furniture purchase for the council lobby area around which the council member offices are located.

The April 6 meeting of the Cape Coral City Council was a busy one, but it did not take place in the council chambers where such decisions are typically made.

Dubbed an "office meeting," the voting session took place in the council lobby.

Did you miss it? You are not alone.

The April 6 "office meeting" was not listed on the city's website where council meetings and workshops appear with agendas and document attachments for the items to be discussed.

Nor was its notice published, as council meetings and even workshops always are.

Instead, it appeared only on the city's online meetings of boards and commissioners calendar. Without any attachments. Or an agenda.

In fairness, it did get a mention at a council meeting. A notice was posted on the door, meaning it probably met the bare minimum publication requirement, usually used for emergency sessions.

Still, we call foul. Loudly and vehemently.

Planned pay raises - approved and now in effect - and a $100,000-plus decision for project options that have been in discussion for more than a year? At an ill-noticed, out-of-chambers voting meeting?

Bushwa.

This reeks.

Even if council, some of whose members were caught unaware that actual votes would be taken, were advised it would be OK.

Plainly put, although council was told that it could vote, the simple fact of the matter is it should not have.

Not under the circumstances outlined.

Not at an "office meeting," period.

"Office meetings" were conceived a couple of years ago as a way for the elected board to meet with its staff on routine matters like office processes or procedures.

There have been but a handful of these, the last one before April taking place last June.

Office meetings were never intended to be voting meetings, and they certainly were never intended as a means to supplant regular council meetings - which have ready public access and televised broadcast - to discuss such items of interest as pay raises and six-figure expenditures, topics that have drawn a good amount of resident comment in the past.

We understand the city manager has now placed the winnowed-down council offices project on the regular city council meeting agenda Monday, under new business, for another vote via a funding resolution.

Good.

But not good enough.

Council needs to revisit each of these votes and the whole "office meeting" concept as well.

While properly noticed workshops and consensus votes are fine, board business - especially decisions on the spending of public money - needs to be conducted at the regularly scheduled city council meetings.

That's what they're for.

And it's what council should do.

We urge our elected board to take the steps needed to make sure the April 6 meeting was an anomaly not to be repeated.

- Breeze editorial

 
 
 

 

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