•Responses to use of Consensus

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Responses to the Use of Consensus by the Council


August 31, 2010

"Question:  Is the use of "consensus" - which is not provided for in the proceedings of University City council meetings - by Council Rules or the Charter - a way to get around the Sunshine Law? ... no vote... no legal requirement to report - and no transparency or accountability!"                            Paulette Carr

 

With a poor grasp of the facts and the use of innuendo, it is implied that the actions of the City Council are illegal.  I would suggest that people actually read "Robert's Rules of Order" before making baseless accusations.
    S Kraft


"ADOPTION OF A MOTION OR ACTION WITHOUT A MOTION, BY UNANIMOUS CONSENT (OR GENERAL) CONSENT
In cases where there seems to be no opposition in routine business, time can often be saved by the procedure of unanimous consent, or as it is also called, general consent.  Action in this manner is in accord with the principle that rules are designed for the protection of the minority and generally need not be strictly enforced when there is no minority to protect.  Under these conditions, the method of unanimous consent can be used either to adopt a motion without the steps of stating the question and putting the motion to a formal vote, or it can be used to take action without even the formality of a motion.....
Unanimous consent does not necessarily imply that every member is in favor of the proposed action; it may only mean that the opposition, feeling it is useless to oppose or discuss the matter, simply acquiesces. "


From Robert's Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 10th Edition
; page 51

Council Member Stephen Kraft, Ward 1   

 

 UCityCitizen Logo


September 9, 2010

With all due respect, Council Member Kraft, the description of the use of consensus (see the text in red above) does not fit the hiring of a City Manager – one of the most important responsibilities that the University City City Council bears.  The appointment of a City Manager is NOT routine business. 

Robert’s Rules of Order is one of several parliamentary systems that provides the structure for conduct of business and is not law, but procedure.  The real issue is that council must adhere to the Sunshine Law which provides that the only way a governing body can act is through a vote.

Because this Council at times seems not to understand the Missouri Sunshine Law, I sent them (on Aug. 31, 2010) a presentation from Robert J. Golterman, an attorney with Lewis, Rice and Fingersh who is also the City Attorney for Crestwood. It is titled: THE MISSOURI  SUNSHINE LAW – HOW IT APPLIES TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS (Link)It is well presented, and easy to read and understand.

Mr. Golterman’s presentation on the Missouri Sunshine Law clearly lays out what constitutes a meeting, including "polling and daisy-chaining," and how action is to be taken by a governing body - by vote. There is no provision for any presumed consensus. These rules apply to all local governments.

 Paulette Carr, Gannon Ave.

<View or download THE MISSOURI SUNSHINE LAW - HOW IT APPLIES TO LOCAL GOVERNMENTS below>  


Addendum (Sept. 10, 2010) :

There were two instances (of which I am aware) in which Mayor Welsch offered the use of "consensus" rather than a vote as authority to act:

    (1) in the appointment of Janet Watson to the position of the interim City Manager (link), and

    (2) as the authority to provide the contract to Mr. Walker for signing 4 days prior to the July 12th vote of the Council to offer the contract to Mr. Walker (link).

In neither case was this routine business. 

In both cases, the Mayor, herself stated that she was granted the authority by consensus.  In the instance of the hiring of the City Manager, I quote from the emails she sent to me (and which are referenced in the link in (2) above):

"In a closed session on July 6th the Council provided me with the authority to come to terms with Mr. Walker, with the understanding that a contract would be finalized prior to our July 12th session. ..."

and

"There was no vote at our July 6th meeting that would be made public.  The authority related to Mr. Walker’s contract was provided to me by a consensus of the Council."


There also seems to be some discrepancy between the wording of the motion made at the July 12th, 2010 closed meeting provided to me by the City Clerk AND the wording of that same motion quoted by Council Member Kraft which he claims is recorded in minutes of that meeting - minutes to which we are not privy since the meeting was closed.  A link to the exact email received from the City Clerk, Ms. Joyce Pumm on July 16, 2010 providing that information has already been posted here.

In the email of July 16, 2010 (1 day after the required posting of a vote taken) the City Clerk recounts that vote as "Mr. Glickert moved to offer the proposed contract to Lehman Walker for the position of City Manager of University City and was seconded by Ms. Ricci.

                                       - not "moved to approve the contract" as Mr. Kraft states on his website (see bottom of page).


I have no choice but to subscribe to the information that was contemporaneous to the actual vote and which was provided by the City Clerk.  She is in fact the keeper of our city's records.

Paulette Carr, Gannon Ave.  

 

UCityCitizen Logo
September 10, 2010

from a conversation regarding the use consensus in place of public record votes on U City on the Record


Mr. Kraft's response cites the basis for use of a consent agenda for routine items that are grouped together and VOTED on as one item with no discussion during regular meetings. Any member of the council may request that an item be removed... for discussion and separate vote. Also, a vote by unanimous consent is just as he said, but it is still supposed to be recorded as a VOTE.

I view the term "consensus" differently -- it's more of an informal agreement with the general concept or proposal, but not binding. Concern about overuse of "consensus" is valid if the council and city manager treat consensus as final action on an item, especially if done in study or "special" meetings. The council I sat on used consensus in occasional study sessions when the city manager or a council member was exploring new program options or seeking more direction from the council regarding legal responses or specific council policies. We would discuss pros, cons and parameters of the subject matter and try to reach a consensus, but this was always known to be a step in a work in progress, not a final action. Sooner or later the item would be brought to us for formal discussion and vote. Only a vote binds the city to act, not something agreed to "by consensus."



Mary Schuman, former Council Member  

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• UCityCitizen.org • Paulette Carr, Ward 2 Councilmember, City of University City
• University City, Missouri 63130 •
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Paulette Carr,
Sep 9, 2010, 7:09 PM
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Paulette Carr,
Sep 9, 2010, 7:10 PM
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