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October 19, 2011

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Staff Writer

Four Powell City council members this week discussed proposed changes to the city’s rules regarding removal of members of city committees and boards.

The discussed changes come after a resident in September asked that Councilwoman Sara Marie Brenner be removed from the council’s finance committee after liens were filed against her Powell business, Prestige Music Studios, for unpaid taxes. At that time, council members discussed the rules and said a change could be warranted upon further review. That same resident, Kent Bermingham, visited council a second time at the Oct. 4 meeting, and asked that Brenner resign from her elected duties. Brenner made a statement at that time that the matter was private.

Among the proposed changes is language clarifying that all council members be given “ad hoc” membership to each committee, establishing criteria for removing members from committees and creating a requirement that all council committees maintain minutes.

Powell City Councilman Brian Lorenz, who regularly serves on the operations committee, suggested an attendance policy might be a proper addition to the rules. City Councilman Tom Counts, also operations committee chairman, said requiring attendance was a good point.

“We all know much of the work of council happens at committee level,” Counts said. “The expectation is that council members will attend.”

Powell City Councilman Don Grubbs, the third member of the operations committee, said the rules currently state that council members are expected to attend all meetings unless there is a sufficient reason, which should be reported to the council mayor and city clerk.

“It wouldn’t hurt to emphasize that members are expected to attend,” Grubbs said.

Councilman Richard Cline, who drafted the proposed set of rules, but does not regularly serve on the operations committee, also attended the meeting.

Committee members also discussed whether a reason should be given for a council member’s removal from a committee and whether that potential removal should be discussed in executive session.

Cline, who isn’t in support of discussing council removal from a committee in a closed-door session, asked members if they wanted to add a line in the rules stating that such a discussion is not appropriate in executive session.

Gene Hollins, the city’s law director, previously said the council could discuss such a matter in executive session and that it was up to them.

Committee members said they want to retain flexibility and not explicitly put a section in the council rules.

The committee also discussed possibly requiring council members to serve on two committees each and whether instituting the new rules will make too drastic of a change on the more informal committees.

Counts said that he serves on the finance and operations committees, which are drastically different from each other. While the finance committee would be virtually unchanged by the “formality” of the rules, the operations committee would drastically change as it is a more informal meeting, he said.

“I don’t see the need for all the formality,” Counts said.

Cline, who was on council when the committee structure was introduced, said the committees were intended to be informal, but that meetings should at least be recorded in minutes. As Cline wrote the proposed rules, he was concerned about less formal committees having increased formalities, but as written, he didn’t think the rules changed operations at the meetings as much, he said.

Cline also added that the committees were meant to thoroughly discuss issues and make recommendations to the city council.

“When the committees were formed, council was literally spending 4 to 5 hours on whether to buy 200 pencils or 100 pencils a month,” Cline said. “The feeling was council could take a more macro view. The subject areas for more intense discussion would happen at informal work sessions at a committee level.”

The current council rules were adopted in 2006 and have not been amended since that time.

Committee members will continue discussing the proposed changes at a November meeting and want to make a decision on the rules before the beginning of the year.