By Chris Frost
Oxnard-- Part Two of the policies and procedures manual discussion on March 12, continues with a definition of an action item, which Committee Chair Tim Flynn said means an item is agenized and action is required by the body.
“For example, sometimes it’s received, and the council requires file and no action, then other times, it is providing direction,” he said.
In that instance, he said the staff does a good job.
“It used to happen, and I think this is where Committee Member Perello is coming from,” Flynn said. “There would be direction given by the council, and it would be “re-interpreted” by the city manager and the staff once the council meeting was over. It was controversial, and I think Councilman Perello probably remembers that. But that was a bygone era and I think it’s appropriate that in some cases we do take votes, and in other instances, it is appropriate that we don’t. We can always revisit that, Councilman Perello.”
As chairman, Flynn said he could clarify an issue.
“That’s another thing I can always do, or I can say there is a consensus, I can repeat this,” he said. “The council wants this looked into further, then brought back in a timely manner, that’s the consensus, and if anybody disputes that, then we can go forward.”
Sometimes, he said the council multi-tasks and gets asked for a vote.
“Sometimes, you have a council member say, what it we are voting on is?” he said. “I think it is a fluid process and we will re-visit that, but I think it’s the chair’s job that if there is direction to the staff, that it be made clear what that is once there is a consensus. The chair needs to reiterate what that consensus is, so it’s clear what the staff should do.”
Perello said he understands Flynn’s point.
“I would like to remind everyone in the room that elections and votes have consequences, so that’s why I think we should go on record with a vote,” he said. “That could be a difference of opinion.”
City Attorney Stephen Fischer said he would review the language in the Brown Act to make sure it is consistent with the current language.
“Maybe we acknowledge in this procedural manual that such roll call votes, or unanimous consent, shall be recorded in the minutes,” he said.
Under liability, Perello said something needs to be added since a council member is on their own if they are charged with something, although they can request reimbursement for their expenses if they are found innocent.
“I think it needs to state that in there,” he said. “Until you realize that, you don’t realize how hanging out the nude you are on this particular point. You can be 100 percent right, and then somebody accuses you of something, the city does not defend you, and you are on your own.”
Fischer said that is circumstantial, depending on what is at issue.
“The purpose of this procedural manual; it wasn’t to turn this into a comprehensive dissertation on all aspects of laws affecting the council,” he said. “It’s a policy issue on how far the council wishes to go and how far the committee suggests the council will go.”
Perello said he doubts the three newest council members understand what can happen if someone makes an accusation and they have to incur costs to protect themselves.
“Then, they have to, if they want, come back and ask for reimbursement and the reimbursement is only given if the majority of the council sees fit,” he said. “I did not do that in my case, but I want the rest of the council to realize they have that option. That’s what I was told by your office.”
Fischer said he would add something if the committee wants the change.
“It will be a general summary because this takes up a few sections and practice guides that deal with the Government Claims Act in California,” he said.
Perello recently attended the Channel Islands Beach Community meeting, and they have an agenda that says any member of the committee that attends a meeting where compensation is given that a report is due to the body.
“Various members of our council sit on various committees where compensation is given, and we don’t often bring back the information that took place in those things,” he said. “In the limited amount of time they have for the councilman’s comments, they could put that in, if there was a notation. And I think the item would reinforce what’s going on with the sanitation district, the port authority, what’s going on with the Gold Coast and the big cities to let the rest of the council members know.”
Fischer said Perello’s idea could be added where the order of business gets discussed under city council business/committee reports.
“Similar to what’s in the agenda language now and we can expand on that,” he said.
Perello asked about “statewide concerns,” which is used in new legislation.
“When it’s coming in, and it’s approved with the term statewide legislation, I understand the city treasurer had discussions with the staff on this matter, that term, statewide concern, does it impact the entire government code,” he asked. “If it doesn’t, where do we exclude it?”
Fischer said it depends.
“Generally, statewide concern, when used by the legislature when adopting a law, means that this is an issue, an area, where the legislature is saying if you are a charter city, you cannot go your own way,” he said. “This will override whatever you want to put into your charter, or what might be in your charter, and you have to comply with this law, concerning a matter of statewide concern.”
He noted there is also the concept of what is a municipal affair, and what a city is authorized to enact under its general police powers for public health safety and welfare purposes.
“It can be interpreted when it says statewide concern that this is acknowledging that there is a limit to that police power exercised by a city,” Fischer said.
Flynn asked about the ceremonial items on the agenda, which are limited to one item per meeting for five minutes.
“This item just came up recently because there were multiple ceremonial items," he said. “Now that we are going to only two meetings a month rather than four, we might want to say that we want to set as a goal; two items per meeting, and they should be five minutes. We can have three, as long as they’re all five minutes.”
Fischer said adding the word “normally” would apply to the ceremonial items.
“We’re not talking about a hard-and-fast rule, as you’ve observed, it’s more often than not, more than one item on the consent agenda,” he said. “It’s a rule that’s ‘frequently violated,’ but it’s aspirational.”
From there, he asked about the “mandatory strategic summit” and said the reason why mandatory was put in was the city would be sporadic with the event.
“The city manager’s viewpoint is every five years you have a strategic summit,” he said. “One of the things I’ve said is, the last time we had a strategic summit, Councilwoman Basua, Council Member Lopez, and Councilman Madrigal were not part of the council, so therefore the strategic goals and objectives of the full council are not intact with what we did 3.5 years ago.”
He suggested adding a broader term to add flexibility to the item.
“We can revisit it annually, and it can be a report to the council which we’ve already had,” he said.
City Manager Alex Nguyen said strategic summits should happen every 3-5 years.
“I don ‘t think it should happen more than every three years because then you are constantly planning,” he said.
Nguyen asked about placing a future item on the agenda and noted the intent is perfect, but the process is cumbersome.
“The intent is so council members don’t throw things on the agenda,” he said. “When you do that, it requires staff resources and time, and it will take away from our current workload because it’s new work.”
The current rule is to place it on the agenda to decide if it needs to be on the agenda, he said, which takes too long.
“If a council member wants something to come to a committee, you ask that committee, and it requires the majority of the committee to say yes,” Nguyen said.
The committee will revisit the item one more time
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