Oak Grove Committee of the Whole held a special meeting Friday morning to change the format of the city’s meetings after council members shared concern over certain issues not being placed on the meetings’ agendas after council request.
Committee member Kisha Mische-Jeffrey led the meeting and told the council that the meeting was requested in order to create a municipal order or city ordinance on how the meetings’ agendas are created as well as restructuring the format of the meetings.
“My thought behind this is that we’ve in the past have had some issues — per the KRS, the agenda is supposed to be created in conjunction with the presiding officer, the council and the city clerk, but we’ve had some issues where we’ve requested items to be on the agenda that had not been placed on the agenda,” Jeffrey said to the committee.
“The order of how our meetings have been held have not been crystal clear, so I’d like to create a municipal order and ordinance to outline those guidelines.”
City Attorney Mark Gilbert attended the meeting and provided two examples of how council meetings can be governed and conducted.
Gilbert provided the committee with the City of Bardstown’s city council meeting procedures as well as an outline example from the Kentucky League of Cities.
After reviewing both examples, the committee chose to make a few changes to the KLC example outline and potentially adopt it as the city’s new meetings procedure.
However, the format would stay similar to how the city currently conducts meetings, with a few changes and additions.
The first change the committee made is to require that the council’s agenda and packet be provided to council members the Thursday before regular council meetings on Tuesday.
Committee member James McKnight shared concerns of repeatedly receiving a meeting packet shortly before a meeting, leaving little time for council members to review the packet and be properly prepared by the time of the meeting.
With that he suggested requiring the packets to be delivered by Thursday. However, he also shared concern that if a council member or city officer felt that an item should be added to the agenda prior to the meeting that the council still have enough time to be able to review the issue in the packet.
So, McKnight suggested that along with the packets being delivered by Thursday, any additions or changes that need to be made to the agenda should be done by the end of the City Hall work day on Fridays prior to the Tuesday meeting. That way, McKnight said the council would have the weekend to prepare.
Despite that requirement, the council did agree that during a meeting, a council member could choose to bring up new business but should be voted on by the council to discuss the new business or table it until the next meeting.
The committee ultimately agreed with McKnight’s suggestions and they will be added to the new municipal order and ordinance.
Shortly after that discussion, the committee discussed having public question and answer sessions for the public to address any concerns they wish to share with the council.
Council members have continued to raise concern that amid the pandemic, the council was not giving the public a chance to voice their concerns to the council during regular meetings.
Members have also repeatedly asked the mayor and city clerk when the council would be able to host open, in-person meetings to allow public comment, but after numerous requests, had yet to do so.
With that in mind, the committee felt that it would be necessary to allow a question and answers session in a municipal order and ordinance that details the council’s meeting procedures.
Prior to the pandemic, the council would only allow an Oak Grove resident to speak to council for three minutes per topic, but would not allow the council to respond to the residents’ request.
If a person that wanted to address the council during public comment was not an Oak Grove resident they were not allowed to speak.
However, the committee agreed that it would allow anyone that pays any form of Oak Grove taxes to address the council.
The committee shared that it felt that businesses or employees that work in Oak Grove, but do not live in the city still deserve a voice in the council if they have a concern.
Ultimately, the committee agreed that it would non-residents to speak and anyone can speak on a topic for a maximum of five minutes and limited to only three topics, meaning a person would only be limited to 15 minutes to address three concerns that they may have, during which the council may respond to those concerns.
Jeffrey added that during the Q and A session, the concerning person should read or state their entire concern before the council then responds in order to give them the amount of time that person would need to address all of their concerns without having the answer portion encroach on their allotted time.
The committee also chose to require that all department heads be present for all regular meetings. That would include the police chief, fire chief, public works director, chief financial officer (or finance director), city clerk and community center director.
The committee added that for special called meetings, the council would notify only specific department heads that would be necessary for the special meeting.
The committee also decided to include language in the municipal order and ordinance that would allow the council to take action against an individual involved in the meeting acts inappropriately.
Jeffrey shared that a few years ago, two council members nearly got into a fist fight at a city meeting, but afterwards no actions were taken and the council proceeded normally as if nothing happened.
“There needs to be a measure of recourse (for misconduct),” Jeffrey said to the committee.
The committee agreed to allow the council to take a vote to remove either another council member, the mayor, the city clerk, an attending resident or anyone at a meeting that acts inappropriately, to be removed from the meeting.
After discussing those changes, the committee voted unanimously to forward a municipal order and ordinance outlining the city’s regular meeting procedures and conduct.