By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
New Parsons City Attorney Timothy Stranko attended his first meeting as the official attorney for the City of Parsons. Stranko began his duties on September 1. Stranko sat in on the regular City of Parsons Council meeting.
Prior to the council entering executive session, Strako spoke on his recent tour of city facilities and his impression of the City’s staff. “I spent a lovely afternoon with Aggie and the Mayor touring the city facilities and meeting your staff and you should really be proud of the people,” Stranko said. “They were just 100% in with what the city’s doing and they care a lot about their jobs. I was very impressed.”
According to Stranko, there was a discussion of the Open Meetings Act and how agendas were addressed. “After that visit, we did talk about the agenda and the meetings act and the importance of no unforced errors. We’re going to follow the Open Meetings Act to the letter. So then after that, I sent a memo to Aggie on these issues. One of the subordinate issues is the one we were discussing, but the memo itself stands on its own as an important reminder of how agendas are made in compliance with the Open Meeting Act. In this political environment, you just can’t be too careful about compliance.”
According to Stranko, the memo contained the Lead Case from the Ethics Commission on Agendas as an attachment. “But you will notice in that memo that the Code requires, as an aside I recommend, that we have some written rules about how we do business. How council does business. If you’re interested in that, not required, but if you’re interested in that I could certainly bring some examples along and share those with you in your next packet.”
Following the council’s vote to approve the agenda at the beginning of the meeting, Council Member Tim Turner questioned Stranko on the official procedure for agendas. “Could I ask our attorney a question?” Turner said. “It’s my understanding that in Robert’s Rules of Order that once the agenda is posted, it is the agenda and you do not have to vote on the agenda. You do not have to vote to accept the agenda because once it is posted that is the agenda.”
Stranko differed in his interpretation and opinion of the matter. “No, I don’t agree,” Stranko said. “I think that the proper procedure is the one we just followed.”
According to Turner, Roberts Rules of Order differ. “Roberts Rules of Order doesn’t call for that,” Turner said.
Stranko said that the rules state that the agenda is agreed upon by the council, but is set by the chair. “Trying to balance Roberts Rule of Order, I’m not sure which rule of order you’re citing,” Stranko said. “The rule that I am familiar with allows the chair to set the agenda, but not to dictate the agenda. The agenda is agreed upon by the quorum and I think that’s a more fair, whatever my opinion may be. I think that’s a more fair way to proceed.”
Stranko said he would revisit Roberts Rules of Order to clarify the issue and re-familiarize himself. “I’ll look at Roberts Rules again, Councilor,” Stranko said, “to see if I’m incorrect, but I’m happy to admit a mistake, but I didn’t bring them with me.”
Turner said that he had served on several boards. “Nor did I, but I served on several boards as President and I know that once the agenda’s posted, it is as it is and you can’t change it,” Turner said.
Stranko said he disagreed and clarified his stance on the issue, but did reiterate that he would revisit the rules and present a definitive answer. “Well, I disagree,” Stranko said. “The principle is the quorum, in particular with the kind of government we have here, which is weak mayor, strong council that the quorum is the one that’s responsible for the agenda and the presiding officer doesn’t dictate the agenda. In fact, I’m going to give any member of the council an opportunity at the beginning of the meeting to say, ‘No, I also want to talk about whatever the issue might be.’ Now, of course with the Open Governmental Proceedings Act, we couldn’t act on that, but at the next meeting, we could discuss it at that meeting as requested. It would be as Old Business at the next meeting it would be taken up by council for action. So, that’s my perspective, but again Councilor, its not a problem, I’ll look at the rules again and circle back and resolve this.”
Turner thanked the attorney before Acting Mayor Bruce Kolsun proceeded to the Public Comment portion of the approved agenda.
The next meeting of the Parsons City Council will be held on October 3rd at 6 p.m. at the Charles W. “Bill” Rosenau Municipal Building located at 341 Second Street in Parsons.