Most Black Diamond City Council business tabled; attorney, staff warn of potential consequences

It was business as usual at the last Black Diamond City Council meeting, with the majority of the meeting's agenda items being tabled indefinitely by the majority of the council.

Top: Council members Brian Weber

It was business as usual at the last Black Diamond City Council meeting, with the majority of the meeting’s agenda items being tabled indefinitely by the majority of the council.

The only item to garner full council support on Sept. 1 was the special event permit for the Tough Mudder event, a 10-to-12 mile obstacle course through mud, at the end of the month.

All other items on the agenda were tabled and not addressed by the end of the meeting, nor given a date to be brought back to the council.

These items include the Aug. 18 meeting minutes; the claim checks; a resolution accepting the finished Jones Lake overlay project; five contract extensions for traffic engineering services and surveying services with Paramatrix, engineering services with RH2, traffic engineering services with Perteet Inc and geotechnical services with HWA GeoSciences; and an agreement with DKS Associates to finish the city’s traffic portion of the Comprehensive Plan.

According to both the Robert’s Rules of Order frequently asked questions website and Kevin Connelly, a professional parliamentarian the council majority has contacted, council’s use of tabling items is inappropriate. The council majority has expressed interest in hiring a parliamentarian for the council in the last several meetings, in order to help the council run smoother.

According to the official Robert’s Rules of Order website, legislative bodies often confuse the motion to “lay a motion on a table” with the motion to “postpone to a certain time”.

“The purpose of the motion to Lay on the Table is to enable an assembly, by majority vote and without debate, to lay a pending question aside temporarily when something else of immediate urgency has arisen or when something else needs to be addressed before consideration of the pending question is resumed,” the website reads.

Connelly agreed, saying that in general, motions can be tabled temporarily to be brought up again during the same meeting or the next meeting. If the motion is not brought up by the adjournment of the next session, he said, the motion dies.

Connolly added that agenda items typically need to be postponed to a certain time or indefinitely instead of being tabled.

The online version of Robert’s Rules of Order Fourth Edition explains that tabling motions is often improperly used because it allows a simple majority to shut down debate with the minority, when it normally takes a two-thirds vote to stop debate.

Both the city’s attorney David Linehan and Economic Development Director Andy Williamson warned the council about tabling these items indefinitely, regardless of whether tabling them in this fashion was appropriate.

Linehan recommended the council to go into executive session over the tabled project acceptance and contract extensions to discuss how an indefinite postponement of these items could negatively affect the city.

Linehan also warned the council against tabling the meeting minutes indefinitely.

“The council is requires to have minutes,” he said. “Tabling them implies that they may never come back. It would be a legal violation to not have published minutes.”

Councilwomen Pat Pepper and Erika Morgan wished to table the Aug. 18 minutes and continue to table the July 21 minutes because, according to the two council members, the meetings are not properly conducted and the recorded audio is hard to understand.

“I was completely confused, and I was at the meeting,” Morgan said of the July 21 minutes. “Until our meetings are orderly and are done by the rules, the minutes are not going to be orderly or done by the rules, because the minutes are a reflection of that meeting.”

Williamson also warned the council that continuing to postpone the DKS Associates contract could have negative consequences for the city.

“We need DKS on this more than DKS needs us,” Williamson said. “If I tell them tomorrow that this has been postponed again, they may be done with this… Tabling sends them a sign that you don’t want to be a good partner with them on this issue.”

According to Williamson, it could cost the city upwards of $70,000 to open bids for a new traffic engineer and to start the project over.

The contract was tabled because Pepper and Councilman Brian Weber said they still had questions and wanted to review the contract more. Morgan said all of her questions have been answered.

When asked by Councilwoman Tamie Deady what their questions were, Weber said he had no questions to ask staff at the moment. Pepper said answers she’s received has only raised more questions, but did not expand on them, saying she will not roll a council committee meeting into a regular council meeting.

Deady replied with an explicative that silenced the room for several seconds before the motion to table was voted on.

The only other highlight from the meeting was that council members Morgan, Pepper and Weber again did not join Mayor Carol Benson, Deady and the city attorney for an executive session.

The is the second executive session the council majority has opted to sit out.

All three stated that they do not recognize the Kenyon Disend firm as the city’s legal representative since the firm is being hired by the mayor through multiple $15,000 contracts without council approval.

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