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Council Flip-Flops on Need for Motion to Reconsider
September 20, 2006

The chain of events that related to the City Council action on the container port study on September 19 is truly extraordinary and deserves a full summary.


I would like to remind everyone how this port study went down. It actually happened during a study session on July 25, 2006. This broke new procedural and parliamentary ground for the City of Richmond, abetted by a city attorney with some strange new advice and a mayor who had not a clue what was going on.


I have served on the City Council 10 years, and I can never recall a formal vote being taken during a study session. Minutes have never been taken during a study session, because there is no action taken. Study sessions, by definition have been limited to presentations and discussion. If action needs to follow, it is agendized for a future action session.


In this case, the city attorney opined, and the mayor agreed that a vote could, in fact, be taken in the study session. I protested, but to no avail. No help was forthcoming from the rest of the Council. Unfortunately, there are no minutes of the study session, so the only record is the video tape. In fact, no minutes are even available for the City Council meeting that followed, even though it happened 55 days ago, but that’s another problem the public should be concerned about.


Now we come to September 20 and the argument that the proposal to convene a blue ribbon committee and postpone the feasibility study pending a report would constitute a motion for reconsideration and therefore be out of order.


Rosenberg’s Rules states:


A tenet of parliamentary procedure is finality. After vigorous discussion, debate and a vote, there must be some closure to the issue. And so, after a vote is taken, the matter is deemed closed, subject only to reopening if a proper motion to reconsider is made.


A motion for reconsideration is an effort to re-vote on a previously considered item. In this case, the proposal was not to re-vote on the previous item; it was simply to modify the procedures involved. In the case of my request to speak, assisted by some graphic aids, there was no effort whatsoever to move or even modify anything.  


Regarding the Council’s flip-flop, here is a case in point. On January 4, 2005, the City Council adopted an ordinance, Richmond Municipal Code Chapter 2.74, directing the City Council to appoint an internal auditor.


On January 10, 2006, the City Council, on motion of (can you believe this?) Councilmember Viramontes voted to implement an “alternative program” that completely reversed the previous direction to hire an internal auditor.


In the matter of a discussion of an Internal Audit Program for the City of Richmond. Bill Lindsay, City Manager, gave an overview of the matter. He recommended that the Council review the goals and objectives underlying the adoption of the ordinance and consider alternative program procedures for achieving those goals and objectives. Specifically, he recommended that the Council continue to appoint a professional audit advisory committee, but rather than hiring a full time internal auditor develop a work scope and budget in conjunction with the Finance Committee, and then have City Council approval as part of the overall budget process. Rather than having, an established internal department to bring in contract experts in various areas who, in some cases, may be added on to the City’s regular financial audit to do specific financial auditing. Following discussion, on motion of Councilmember Viramontes, seconded by Councilmember Griffin, approved the Alternative Program Procedure for implementing the Internal Audit Program by the unanimous vote of the Council.


Talk about flip-flopping, on September 20, Councilmember Viramontes was the most vehement opponent to taking any action that would modify the direction given in an unprecedented vote taken in a study session. Yet less than a year earlier, she made the motion to reverse a far weightier matter with no discussion whatsoever of Rosenberg’s Rules and the constraints on reconsideration of a previously decided matter.


What I read into this is that individual Council members, supported by a half wit city attorney and a dysfunctional mayor don’t give a fig for parliamentary procedures or rules. They are mainly interested in abusing whatever power they can muster to put down dissenting councilmembers and keep the truth away from the public.


This is truly a sad day for the City of Richmond. And these people are asking you to reelect them? If you do, you’ll truly get what you deserve.