University Heights City Council meeting highlights 6-30-2014

SPECIAL MEETING – JUNE 30, 2014

  • Architect’s hiring
  • Approval of other expenditures

All council members were present.

Architect’s hiring

After extensive discussion and with a split vote, council denied a resolution to ratify and authorize Mayor Susan Infeld’s hiring of the architectural firm Braun & Steidl to design a community park at 2201 Fenwick Road at the cost of $35,000. The mayor introduced this resolution in an effort to move past the impasse regarding her authority to hire professional service providers. The mayor hired the firm in March 2013 and again in February 2014 (total expenditure was $29,000), without council approval. Council was, however, made aware on several occasions that this firm was providing assistance. The mayor cited a section of the city code, which she claimed authorized her to enter into these contracts, although other sections seem to clearly limit the mayor to a maximum of $5,000. City Attorney Anthony Coyne claimed that the language was murky and noted that while council had not formally approved the expenditures, it had been working with the firm and had approved prior steps, thus implying consent. Braun & Steidl has already been paid $29,000. This resolution was seeking approval of these prior expenditures plus $6,000 for additional work.

Councilman Mark Wiseman said the city code clearly limits the mayor to expenditures less than $5,000. Coyne said that the code authorizes the mayor to run the city and that some of those ongoing expenditures exceed $5,000. Councilman Steven Sims said that the architectural contracts did not constitute running the city. Vice Mayor Susan Pardee argued that the code is clear that such agreements for both services and supplies must be approved by council. All of the mayor’s excellent work and all of the communication is beside this point of required approval.

Councilman Philip Ertel asked if council and the mayor couldn’t simply agree on the process going forward and resume work on the project itself. Vice Mayor Pardee concurred with finding an agreement on process, but was unwilling to approve a contract retroactively. Councilman Wiseman said that he was very uncomfortable approving contracts already entered into and paid for. Councilwoman Nancy English felt that a vote in the affirmative would condone the actions. Councilman Sims urged passing the resolution if the objection was about the process and not about the hiring per se.

Council members Zucker and Ertel voted yes. Council members English, Wiseman, Pardee and Cameron voted no. Councilman Sims passed. Following the vote, Mayor Infeld said that the responsibility for clarifying the legislation should be taken up by the finance committee. Vice Mayor Pardee said she would call a finance committee meeting in July or August.

Approval of other expenditures

A motion to approve the payment of various city expenditures was tabled and replaced. In response to the concerns regarding expenditures in excess of $5,000, the mayor presented a variety of invoices received in the past two weeks that exceeded $5,000. These included gasoline purchased through the school district, cold patch for the roads, and the monthly Sam's Club invoice for office supplies, paper products, cleaning supplies. Mayor Infeld noted that for her to abide by the spending limit, council would need to meet more frequently in order to review and approve payment for the many invoices. Councilman Wiseman felt it was ironic that a $29,000 architect fee is now equivalent to the purchase of paper products. Vice Mayor Pardee noted that the legislation is specific to contracts and the invoices presented were not contracts. The mayor said a credit card bill is an implied contract.

Councilman Sims and Councilwoman Cameron noted that the budget and appropriations process allows for such ongoing business expenditures.

An alternative motion to continue following established practices for the payment of invoices until the ordinances can be reviewed was approved unanimously.

LWV Observer: Wendy Deuring.

These meeting summaries are abstracted from LWV observers’ written reports. The summaries have been edited and prepared by Anne McFarland, Charlene Morse, and Maryann Barnes. To receive e-mail postings of full reports, send an e-mail to mbarnes9515@gmail.com or join through Google groups using “lwv-chuh observer reports” as a search phrase.

These reports contain member observation and selected highlights of public meetings and are not official statements of the Heights Chapter of the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. This disclaimer must accompany any redistribution of these reports.

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