Friday, December 21, 2018

BMA Meeting Procedure Changes, Sunshine Law Violation Admitted, "Culture of Kindness" criteria inconsistently applied

Metal Detectors at Meetings?


Abigail Warren, who recently moved from the Commercial Appeal to the  Daily Memphian, reports on the special called meeting of the BMA this week. 

Because this meeting took place the same night as the Board of Education meeting, it was not available on the City website for viewing. I believe there is an audio recording of the meeting, but it has not yet been posted on the website. Two things were discussed at the meeting--1.) procedural changes for meetings and 2.) commission members and aldermen liaisons.

Sarah Freeman attended the meeting and provided clips of what she considered to be the highlights. We owe her a debt of gratitude for this because she claims that she recorded for four hours! I watched the clips, uploaded them to YouTube and give a brief discussion of the content of each.  


A parliamentarian will be hired for the meetings. Everyone seemed to think this was a good idea. That way if a citizen is cut short on time in Citizens to Be Heard (as happened once to Sarah Freeman), we can blame the parliamentarian instead of the Mayor:

The BMA voted 3-2 (Janda, Gibson, and Owens YES, and Massey and Sanders NO) to cut in half the amount of time that aldermen are allowed to speak at the BMA meeting about an issue, from two ten minute talks to two five minute talks. The discussion speaks for itself:

Rocky Janda had suggested that they cut out the Executive Session before the meetings, saying that it was repetitive. The other aldermen seemed to like the Executive Sessions and found them helpful, so that measure never came to a vote: 

A proposed measure to ban the use of cell phones by aldermen during the meeting was discussed, but there was never a vote on this. There was a little pushback on making this mandatory, and Alderman Massey pointed out that, because he has a small child, it is important for his wife to be able to reach him. They all agreed they needed to do "better" about their cell phone usage, but, again, no measure was passed. 

Some of the oddest discussion took place as the BMA discussed security measures for meetings that were proposed by Rocky Janda. Alderman Janda feels unsafe at meetings, and wants metal detectors installed for the public. The discussion of guns began. As it turns out, the administration had not researched state law on the subject, and Mary Anne Gibson wanted to talk to the police about this measure, so no action was taken. Ms. Gibson asked Mr. Massey if he brought a gun to meetings. Mr. Massey refused to answer because he does not want potential criminals to have that information. Ms. Gibson later said it would make her uncomfortable if Mr. Massey carried a gun. Scott Sanders feels that metal detectors would be a deterrent for citizens who would otherwise attend BMA meetings: 


The meeting also consisted of discussion of commission liaison appointments and commission members. I do not yet have the full list of commission appointments, but when that list becomes available I will post it. 

The clip below shows that the appointment of Dick Vosburg to the Financial Advisory Commission caused some controversy. He led the Germantown Values PAC endorsing Mayor Palazzolo and Alderman Gibson. Alderman Massey pointed out that Jon Riley and John Peyton were turned down for commission memberships because they failed to meet a non-specific "culture of kindness" test when an anonymous citizen put copies of their social media posts in the aldermen's boxes. Then Alderman Massey reminded the aldermen of the vile nature of the political PAC that attacked private citizens and spewed misinformation during the campaign

Scott Sanders stated that the the Vosburg led PAC lied to the Election Commission and stated that they were not political, when in fact they were. For several days they conducted exit polling within 100 feet of the polling places, in clear violation of election rules. Later, after a complaint was filed, Mr. Vosburg was told he had to comply with the 100 foot rule. Alderman Sanders could not support someone on the Financial Advisory Commission who lied to the Election Commission.

However, none of this deterred the other aldermen from defending Mr. Vosburg. It is disappointing that the BMA, in affirming the nomination, did not use consistency in applying the "culture of kindness" standard. It also seems inadvisable to allow a person who lies to a governmental body to serve on the Financial Advisory Commission. The yea votes for Dick Vosburg were Aldermen Owens, Janda, and Gibson, with Sanders and Massey voting "no". 


In this next clip (below), Forrest Owens admits that he, Alderman Gibson, and Alderman Janda all discussed potential commissioners prior to the meeting. Discussion of City business outside of a public meeting is a clear violation of the Tennessee Sunshine Law (first discussed in a July 2016 post). None of these aldermen are new on the job, and they all know better. The Sunshine Laws have a purpose. What gives? Are we supposed to shrug our shoulders and forget about it? If the City cares so much about procedure that it is hiring a parliamentarian, shouldn't our aldermen obey state law? What other City business is being discussed outside of the public meetings, in violation of the law?  It simply is NOT okay for our aldermen to make side deals about City business outside of a public meeting. The citizens should rightfully be infuriated about this flagrant breach of the law.


Below Alderman Massey makes the argument that all the financial related commissions have Rocky Janda as the liaison, and that the City would be better served with a balance of power. There would be more oversight if the important commission liaison appointments were not lopsided in favor of Alderman Janda and Alderman Owens. Alderman Massey alone voted against the liaison appointments. 

1 comment:

  1. After reviewing the full recording (on the city website), I'm not convinced that Mr. Massey understands what a parliamentarian does. He also doesn't seem to be much in favor of the parliamentarian, as you claim. Several times, Mr. Massey said that there wasn't a need for someone to keep the rules and he even said that the rules should be relaxed. Relaxing the rules is 100% opposite of what a parliamentarian would be hired for.

    Also, when Alderman Gibson discussed keeping BMA discussions germane to the topic at hand and Mr. Massey said that his definition of 'germane' might differ from others, they discussed if a parliamentarian would help that. That discussion wasn't germane to the topic, though, because, according to Robert's Rules of Order, the germaneness of an alderman's speech if the sole discretion of the Chair of the meeting. A parliamentarian can not make that decision and can not overrule the Chair's decision. If the Chair were to declare Mr. Massey's speech non-germane and Mr. Massey were to appeal to the parliamentarian, the parliamentarian's duty would be to respond that the decision is solely the Chair's discretion.

    Mr. Massey has had trouble with simple meeting procedure and simple city government procedure for his entire term. He would be a much more effective representative of the people if he learned how things work.