FAIRMONT — Prior to Monday’s Fairmont City Council meeting, the council attended a training session led by representatives from the League of Minnesota Cities. The theme of the training was on making and implementing final decisions and accountability.
This was the second board session with LMC. The first, which took place prior to the last board meeting on January 24, focused on effective and efficient communication and the roles and responsibilities of the board as a whole versus individual board members. The manner of adding and removing items from the agenda was also discussed.
The latter was also a big topic of conversation during Monday’s practice.
Aisia Davis, research lawyer for LMC, reviewed a presentation that discussed the fundamental roles of a city council and said that when acting in a formal legislative capacity, the council comes together to discuss, debate and ultimately decide on important issues affecting the city and community.
“If the council continually comes back to issues that the city has already debated and decided, you could run into problems,” Davis said.
She said constantly reviewing previous council actions can create confusion among council members, staff and residents about what has been passed or decided for the city.
“There may be costs associated with reworking old council actions and this may be due to staff time spent on research, legal opinions from city attorneys or reviews of previous actions or even contractual issues that could occur”, Davis said.
She stressed the importance of making sure something is worth the board’s time, especially if it’s something that has already been passed.
Aimée Gourlay, who is also with LMC, was present during the training session. She talked about a survey given to the board that asked what needed to be worked on the most.
“There was a comment about how much information council members receive and whether they receive enough of it before they vote, to ensure the issue is not revisited,” Gourlay said.
She said a few people have talked about finding a compromise, given that there is currently a divided board. She said that sometimes talking about an issue can feel personal.
She asked the board members what they thought needed to be worked on.
Council Member Randy Lubenow said: “The most important thing for me are the items on the agenda. If someone wants something, you said in the presentation last time that a board member should be able to put something on the agenda. This doesn’t always seem to be the case. »
Mayor Deb Foster said that in terms of adding things to the agenda, her concern is that when asked to add things to the agenda on the evening of the meeting, no one has any details about it.
“On the one hand, for me, it’s not good for the public. The public has access to the agenda once it is out and if any items are moved on the day of the meeting, members of the public or members of the press will not know those items are added until that time. I haven’t seen anything productive about it. said Foster.
She also commented on decision-making, saying that once a decision is made by a majority of council, it’s time to move on to the next round of questioning.
“Those are two of the concerns I have,” said Foster.
The board engaged in conversations about whether an item should be added to the agenda after it had already been discussed. He also talked about when items should be added to the agenda after its release. The agenda is published on the Thursday preceding the Monday evening meeting.
Gourlay asked council member Britney Kawecki if she had any concerns. Kawecki said that when an item is on the consent agenda, no discussion is allowed.
“I believe this discussion should take place. I feel like some board members, probably me in particular, are stripped of that,” said Kawecki.
She said when you’re not able to discuss something, it makes you want to bring it back to the council.
Foster told Gourlay of some past instances where some board members made a motion to have items removed from the consent agenda, but the majority of the board rejected the motion.
“The majority of the board, when they speak, that’s the answer. Whether we like it or not, this is how the majority of the board wants things to happen. This is how it works “, said Foster.
She said that when the council does not want to discuss something, the same subject should not be brought up at the next council meeting, but they have met with him several times.
The board continued the discussion on when an item should be added to the agenda. The general consensus was that after the agenda was published, unless it was something urgent, an additional item should be postponed until the next meeting.
Board member Bruce Peters raised some concerns about the consent agenda, which he said includes items that the board is essentially approving. Foster added that many of the consent agenda items came up during the budget conversations.
City Administrator Cathy Reynolds said if a member of council had specific questions about a consent agenda item, staff needed prior knowledge so they could have information.
“If you pull it up and ask for it for the first time here, we may or may not have that answer available to discuss it,” said Reynolds.
Gourlay said the board talked about unity as a goal. As they function as a majority, she asks how they can achieve unity.
Lubenow said, “Since I’ve been on the board, there have been divisions, which I think exist in the world today. I hear advice all the time, Minneapolis 5-4, this and that.
He said the fastest way to fail is to try to please everyone and no matter what you think is a good idea, 20-40% is automatically against you.
Foster said that in the past, when an item didn’t pass, council members let it pass. She said the problem now is that some council members can’t let something go.
Reynolds said, “Unity is not a 5-0 (vote). Unity may be 3-2, but unity comes from constructive conversations, constructive disagreements and doing it in that context, and then standing behind a decision once a decision is made.
After the rest of the presentation, Gourlay shared a few more comments from board members included in their survey. She said one person said there was a huge miscommunication. She asked if anyone had anything to share.
Peters said he recently had a question from a constituent about a boat ramp, so he took it to the city administrator and then it went to the parks officer. and the answer came back to him.
“It works. Communications are great if you follow the chain of command,” Peters said.
Gourlay asked the board if he had any questions about the code of conduct or if he had an interest in it. Foster said she thinks every organization should now have a code of conduct because expectations are different now than they ever were and she supports the existence of a code of conduct.
Gourlay said she thinks the council has a general baseline, but if he has questions, she can come back for another training session.