BAKER — Ignoring provisions of the state Open Meetings Law, the City Council held a 20-minute, closed-door meeting Tuesday to discuss appointments to several key city jobs and a state attorney general’s opinion regarding those appointments.
City Council President Charles Vincent pushed for the executive session to “discuss personnel matters” and the attorney general’s opinion that generally upholds Mayor Harold Rideau and the previous council members’ actions to fill the positions for the new fiscal year.
State law does not allow closed-door sessions for “personnel matters,” but authorizes them to discuss the “character, professional competence, or physical or mental health of a person,” provided that the person is notified in writing at least 24 hours before the meeting.
The person being discussed may require it to be in open session, however, but the law also does not allow discussing awarding a public contract.
Council members John Givens, Robert Young and Joyce Burges joined Vincent in voting to meet outside the council chambers, while Pete Heine voted against the motion and did not participate in the meeting. Rideau objected to the meeting, but joined the others when they left the room.
Three outgoing council members, meeting for the last time on June 26, voted to concur with Rideau’s appointment of Ken Fabre as city attorney and Monese Scott as city treasurer.
The same majority also supported the continued employment of Angela Canady as council clerk and hiring certified public accountant Mary Sue Stages to audit the city’s books for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Vincent, Burges, former Mayor Leroy Davis and City Judge Kirk Williams argued at length during the meeting that the lame-duck members lacked the authority to take action that will affect council members in the new fiscal year, and the new council majority voted July 10 to nullify the appointments.
They also asked for the attorney general’s opinion, which the city received Tuesday.
The opinion, written by Assistant Attorney General William P. Bryan III, refers to provisions of the city’s home-rule charter and says the previous council’s action on June 26 in the appointment of Fabre and Scott to their positions was valid.
“Nowhere in any of the charter sections governing mayoral appointments is there language specifying a timeframe for concurrence by the council. Therefore, it must be interpreted that the framers of the charter did not intend to place any restrictions on mayoral appointments other than the requirement that the council concur for certain appointments,” the opinion says.
The opinion also says the previous council majority decisions to reappoint Canady as council clerk and hire Stages to do the auditing were within its authority.
The current council, however, may terminate them and name new people to the jobs, the opinion adds.
After returning to the council chambers, the group voted to concur with Rideau’s appointments of Fabre and Scott as city attorney and treasurer, respectively.
The council also voted to keep Canady as council clerk until Dec. 31, although Heine wanted to hire her on a month-to-month basis in case the members elect to hire someone with added duties in public relations.
Rideau objected to keeping “people on a short leash,” but Heine said Canady also works in the inspection department.
“She’s got a job, she’s not on a short leash,” Heine said.
The council also put Jean Byers on a month-to-month contract as the city’s coordinator of projects and events.
The members also voted to consider another auditor after Jan. 1.