What Were They Thinking?
POPLAR BLUFF – Councilman Degaris made a motion on Monday at the council meeting to transfer $4.4M from the City Cable sale fund to Municipal Utilities. Absheer seconded the motion. The discussion followed:
- We should wait for the five-year plan from our consultants
- This type of request should come from the advisory board up rather than council down
- Moving that amount of money on a whim is not wise
- Transferring this amount of money when the city is looking at $1.8M loss in our insurance fund and $1.2M loss at the coliseum is not wise.
- Transferring money at this point could even bankrupt the city
- Increasing the utilities reserves doesn’t help guarantee we won’t need a rate increase
Several council members suggested they table the idea and Robert Smith explained how that could happen. The City Clerk then stated that was not possible and they had to vote on the motion because it had been seconded. Wow…so many Robert’s Rule infractions all at once.
- Degaris’ original motion was out of order since they were in the workshop section of the meeting rather than the voting section of the meeting
- Typically to “Lay on the table” a motion is for it to be discussed later in the meeting, not delayed for future meetings
- What they really wanted to do was “postpone indefinitely the current motion” which requires a two-thirds vote (which they probably would have had the way the discussion sounded at 4-2). Once a postponement motion is made and seconded there can be no more discussion and the vote to postpone is counted. If two-thirds vote to postpone, the issue is set aside for a future meeting, to send it back to another committee or to never see again.
- And finally, the City Clerk was wrong, you can both table and postpone indefinitely at any time before the vote on the motion.
To vote to table a motion is so misunderstood that I don’t think anyone would have a problem of “tabling for a future meeting” meaning “postponed indefinitely” (many web sites on Robert’s rules express this sentiment) so had council trusted Robert Smith’s advice they could have just tabled it and moved on.
But, despite the fears of putting the city close to bankruptcy, the City Manager highly discouraging such frivolous and from-the-hip actions with millions of dollars, and all of the points made during the discussion…both Degaris and Absheer voted to transfer $2,2M (Degaris altered his original motion) from the city’s fund to municipal utilities.
What were they thinking? And even better, WHY did the DAR make it sound like it was such a great idea. Some things just make you go, “Hmmmmmm.”