Council Breaks Voting Rules And Denies Historical Mayoral Vote
At tonight’s City Council meeting the City Clerk, Pam Kearbey, announced that nominations were open for Mayor. Johnny Brannum and Susan McVey started speaking at the same time and Kearbey recognized McVey. She nominated current Mayor, Ed Degaris. Kearbey asked for a second and Lloyd Matthews seconded the nomination.
Kearbey then gave the floor back to Brannum who stated that the city had just made history by seating Angela Pearson and Betty Abshear which made three women serving on the City Council at the same time.
Brannum went on to state that the city should make history again, tonight, by honoring the 4-term City Council member, Robert Smith, and elect him to be the first African-American Mayor of our 140+ year-old city. Angela Pearson’s first action as a new council member was to second that nomination.
As soon as Pearson’s second was out of her mouth, Kearbey closed the nominations and immediately called a roll call vote for Ed Degaris requesting that each member vote yes or no.
What? There are two people nominated…you can’t do a roll call vote with two nominations that way.
DeGaris received “yes” votes from McVey, Matthews, Abshear and DeGaris and “No” votes from Brannum, Pearson and Smith.
But in an even stranger turn of events, Kearbey stated that four votes was enough, they didn’t even need to hold a vote for Robert Smith and declared Ed DeGaris as Mayor. I was stunned. They denied to even let anyone vote for him.
Contrary to what the DAR posted, DeGaris got 4 votes and Smith received 0 votes because his name was never called for the election.
The city abides by Roberts Rules of Order which clearly states in the Elections section:
Nominations and Elections
Before proceeding to an election to fill an office it is customary to nominate one or more candidates. This nomination is not necessary when the election is by ballot or roll call, as each member may vote for any eligible person whether nominated or not. When the vote is “viva voce” or by rising, the nomination is like a motion to fill a blank, the different names being repeated by the chair as they are made, and then the vote is taken on each in the order in which they were nominated, until one is elected.
My guess is that Kearbey and City Attorney Wallace Duncan got confused by the rules of a “Voice Vote” which is when the council is asked “All in favor of … for mayor say ‘Aye’?” In that type of vote, it is allowed to vote in order of nomination and when a majority of the quorum is reached the election is over, but certainly not in a roll call vote. But this is Poplar Bluff where we stack the deck and make sure that only the guy we want to be mayor gets to be voted on. Now I understand why Kearbey awarded the nominations “floor” to McVey before Brannum, that was purposeful so they could slam home their guy.
Not wanting to get thrown out of another city council meeting I remained in my seat (and quiet), but in my opinion Robert Smith was railroaded and denied the opportunity to be voted for as the first African-American mayor of the city of Poplar Bluff.
ADDED on 4/18/2013:
In Poplar Bluff, the mayor is a non-power position and is basically an ambassador for Poplar Bluff. His role include signing ordinances, running the council meeting, and attending local gatherings. The mayor has no veto power and his vote has the same weight as any other council member. The roll is strictly honorary and anyone able to run a campaign and get elected has the capabilities to be mayor of our city.
This is the first year Brannum could make this nomination because last year was his first year on council and its not likely that immediately after being sworn in you nominate someone for mayor.
The fact that Smith has never been mayor rests squarely on the shoulders of Absheer, Matthews, and McVey who have been on council a combined 50+ years. They know that this is Robert Smith’s last year before his next election and that no one is guaranteed a win in the future. They also know that anyone who wants to be mayor and has been on city council for 12 years should be a shoe-in.
Councilman Smith and I have rarely seen eye to eye but he has served this city now for 12 years and to be treated like this is unthinkable. I have been told by several previous city council members that Mr. Smith has been promised the mayor position several times over the years but when the election comes he is passed over and told maybe next year.
Now, Smith finally gets nominated for this honor and they don’t even call his name for a vote. This is like a one-ton polka-dotted elephant in the room, but I’m going to ask the question which is on everyone’s mind: Is this because he’s black?
Not only should they have allowed Councilman Smith to be voted for properly, I am shocked and perplexed what reasons the council members could have for not unanimously voting for Robert Smith as Mayor of Poplar Bluff.
Furthermore, since this was not a properly conducted City Council election, maybe they should do it again…the right way!