In most cities, the issue would be routine, not even worth mentioning.
Not in Los Alamitos.
At City Hall, sparks can fly over anything, even something as seemingly mundane as the written record of previous City Council meetings.
After a tense discussion and accusations of law-breaking, the City Council voted Monday to require the city clerk to describe what happens at the monthly meeting in more detail in the meeting minutes.
“The meeting minutes are to give you the full picture of what happened,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gerri Graham-Mejia, who supported the change from “action” to “summary” minutes. Action minutes are more like bullet points while summary minutes provide more background on what happened.
The issue has arisen before.
In the past, some council members have expressed concerns that their comments were slighted or mischaracterized in the meeting minutes. Along with the city manager and city attorney, the city clerk is one of three people who report directly to the council.
In 2011, City Clerk Adria M. Jimenez left her position after about a year and a half on the job. At Monday’s meeting Councilman Troy Edgar suggested Jimenez was fed up with the council’s bickering over the council meeting minutes kept by the city clerk, and he said that was one of the reasons they went to the action minute format.
“The meeting minutes were a tremendous problem for the city clerk two years ago,” Edgar said. “She was mediating fights up here.”
In contrast, Mejia said she’d spoken with Jimenez recently and Jimenez said personal and work place issues had caused her to quit ― not the meeting minute discussions.
Prior to Monday’s vote, the city clerk provided records of the meeting using a combination of “action minutes” and “summary minutes.” Edgar said that combination of meeting minutes violated a 2010 ordinance that required all minutes to be “action minutes.”
Edgar asked a number of questions of the city clerk and accused her of not following the council’s directives.
“Why didn’t you just say, ‘Hey, this is what the law is. I’ve got to follow the law,’?” Edgar said. “I don’t understand why we have a mix of meeting minutes. It is really dysfunctional.“
The city clerk said she’d been following the direction of previous city managers and the previous city clerk.
Mayor Warren Kusumoto, who voted to change to the more detailed minutes, defended the latest clerk's actions.
"I think the city clerk has been following the spirit of the law," Kusumoto said.
A number of residents spoke in favor of changing the meeting minutes, including JM Ivler, who said the current format doesn't fit the public's needs.
"We’re the ones who use it,” Ivler said. “We’re saying it’s not sufficient. Represent us. Provide us with the tools we need to be able to do our research and have an institutional memory.”
At one point, after one public speaker commented on the issue, interim city attorney Steve Skolnik pointed out that, technically, people couldn’t speak on the issue if they’d already spoken about it earlier during public comments.
“They really ought to speak once on the subject,” Skolnik said.
“Well, just for the record we’ve never stopped people from commenting twice,” responded Mejia.
Mejia said she didn’t see a reason why the council should start limiting the public comment now.
“Why follow the law?” replied Edgar.
“When you had the majority, never did you follow the law,” answered Mejia.
The new minute style passed 4-1 with Edgar casting the dissenting vote, saying he didn't want to support "insubordination" in regards to city ordinances.
- The Los Alamitos Youth Baseball League will host the PONY Baseball's 2013 Bronco League World Series, the Los Al league president announced to the City Council.
- Los Al leaders voted 3-2 against a plan to spend $10,000 on signs to promote awareness of a business watch group in the city.
- The city council appointed a new attorney.
- Officials voted to replace the asphalt at Orville Lewis Park Baseball Court.
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