Editor's Note: This article was updated for clarification.
During the first few minutes of last night's council meeting, a few items were changed in the agenda. Items B (changes to the charter) and E (contract with Knights Unlimited, Inc.) were moved to "new business" with no problem.
There was a problem, however, when Mayor Pro Tem Tom Witts reminded the council that there was another agenda item that was supposed to have been moved.
“Madam Chair, I believe there was one more agenda change,” Witts said. “Moving Anderson from public comment to item C.”
Mayor Kautz felt that change was “out of order,” despite the fact that had been discussed previously in the work session.
The recommendation to move George Anderson's comments was originally made by city attorney Tony Powell.
“There’s one thing I would hope you would do," he said in the session that took place directly before the public council meeting. "[Anderson] is now listed under public comments, and I think it would, from a procedural standpoint, be better to have him come up and then answer our questions at that point.”
. According to Dave Emanuel, he is using a false claim in order to have a platform for political speech. In response, the council wants to file a declatory judgment against Anderson in order to see what their options are in defending Witts. First, though, they planned to give Anderson time to speak and answer their questions. The timing of when he would speak was the subject of debate.
When Mayor Kautz did address the change in schedule during the public portion of the council meeting, Witts spoke up.
“Mr. Anderson will have the opportunity, as all the public will have the opportunity, to speak," she said. “Based on our public charter he does have that right."
Powell asserted during the council meeting that there does not seem to be a valid ethics claim in Anderson’s complaint against councilman Tom Witts.
In the end, a motion passed to proceed with a declaratory judgment against George Anderson. A declaratory judgment takes place when the plaintiff is in doubt of their legal rights. Individuals may seek a declaratory judgement before action has been taken. A judge will issue an opinion declaring the rights of the parties involved.
Mayor Kautz and councilman Mike Sabbaugh were not in favor.
“I’m not in support of this,” said Mayor Kautz, “and I will not as mayor sign off on the legal documents on this action.”
She does not believe that it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to foot the bill for an ethics investigation against a council member.
“That’s a bigger conflict than any alleged violation in an ethics complaint,” Kautz said.
She does not believe it would be proper for the city to spend taxpayer money to bring a personal situation of council members to superior court.
Former councilmember Tod Warner disagreed, as did the rest of the council, minus Sabbaugh. According to Warner, the charter protects councilmembers who are involved in an ethics charge, because “anyone can file a frivolous ethics complaint.” Warner was in office when that policy was created.
“We didn’t want any current or future council member to have to continually take money out of their own pocket to defend frivolous claims,” said Warner.
Councilman Bobby Howard agreed.
“We depend on our city attorney to give us good advice, and our attorney has advised us to do this,” he said. “So I support this.”
When it was time for Anderson to speak, he was nowhere to be found, even though he officially requested to be scheduled.
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