At a special called meeting Thursday night Mayor Larry Austin requested clarification from City Attorney, Matt Ketcham, about who is allowed to speak and when. “We don’t want a lot of interruptions and things like that,” said Austin before the start of the meeting. “That is not what we need to be doing.”
In his request the Mayor stated the last two meeting of the council citizens were speaking out of turn and that council members were asking citizens to speak when they were not a part of the “public participation on the agenda”, and that the meetings resulted in public forums for anyone to speak about whatever they wished.
Austin stated that the meeting were an insult to the citizen’s of Mansfield and that the meetings were so disorderly that the council could not function as it should.
The mayor asked the city attorney in an email the following questions:
Does the Recorder/Treasurer, Becky Walker, allowed to speak during the meeting other than giving her monthly report?
Does a council member have the authority to give the Recorder/Treasurer speaking privileges regarding matters other than her monthly report?
Does a council member have the authority to involve citizen participation other than at the end of the meeting as approved in our January meetings each year?
Is it appropriate for the city council to allow citizen participation other than what has been outlined in our procedures generally as recommended by the Arkansas Municipal League?
Ketcham summarized his answers to the Mayor for the council. Ketcham stated responded that the Reporter/Treasurer does have the right to speak other than her monthly reports, she can speak at the end of the meeting as a citizen of Mansfield and she can respond to any questions that the council has for her or that the mayor has for her. The Recorder/Treasurer can also speak if asked a question by a citizen at the end of the meeting.
The City Attorney went on to say that If a council member has a specific question directed at a member of the audience during a given topic under which they have the floor you have the right to ask that person a question.
Citizens are given two minutes at the end of each meeting according to the Mansfield City Council procedures.
At the December meeting the council attempted to limit the power of the Mayor. At the meeting Alderman Rick McDaniel addressed the Mayor and the council proclaiming the issues Mansfield has faced during the Mayor’s time in office. The problems, McDaniel stated, include an ongoing boil order that has been in place since a Dec. 5 storm damaged the city’s water tower as well and Austin’s tendency to micromanage city workers to the point that they cannot perform their duties without fear of being fired.
Afterwards the council asked for the Mayor’s resignation, unanimously approved a motion to amend the personnel policy handbook to replace the word “mayor” with “recorder/treasurer” and unanimously approved an ordinance to increase its regular meetings from monthly to weekly.
Austin vetoed both of these measures. Ketcham said the council cannot override these vetoes until the next regular City Council meeting on January 18.
In other news the council approved a motion to contract with engineering and surveying company Landmark to correct issues that the city has had with their wastewater treatment plant.
“They have ADEQ (Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality) violations for maintenance and that is what we are dealing with,” said James Dreher, Project Manager for Landmark. “ADEQ came for an inspection and usually that means that there was a complaint.