Greenfield Board Experiences Second Lack of Quorum
BY DAVID FISHER
GREENFIELD (October 26) — For the second time in October the Greenfield City Board attempted to meet, but was unable to do so, due to lack of a quorum.
The board met on Tuesday, October 26, because there were not enough members present at the October 19 meeting. When the second attempt to meet also failed, due to not having a quorum, those board members who showed up expressed their displeasure and frustration over the situation.
Only four of Greenfield’s eight aldermen were in attendance at the meeting. A minimum of five board members are required to have a quorum. Those present were aldermen: Mark Galey, Kelly Keylon, Donald Ray High and Leanna Stephenson. Those absent included: aldermen Chris Turbyville, Bobby Morris, James Roy Pope and Donald Allen.
“This is the first time in my seven-year career working as an attorney for various cities, that I’ve had a city board go two consecutive meetings without having a quorum,” Pemberton said. “I would like to point out that, obviously, board members, under the charter, have a requirement to attend board meetings as part of their duties.”
Mayor Cindy McAdams inquired about attempting to have a meeting for the third time in October. However, City Attorney Beau Pemberton stated it would not be possible. He explained, although Greenfield’s City Charter requires the city board to meet monthly, there were not enough days left in October to do so and still meet the legal requirement for ample public notice, as specified in Tennessee’s Sunshine Law. He noted failing to meet is a violation of the charter, but there is little that can be done about it under the circumstances.
Mayor McAdams stated the board needs to meet each month to officially approve the payment of city bills. She noted although the bills are paid prior to the meeting as they come due, the board’s official approval is, nevertheless, required for expenditures under the city charter.
Alderman High stated, while not preferable, board members could vote by email, as they have in the past, if the situation calls for it.
During discussion, Alderman Keylon asked about the provision in the city charter that states if an alderman misses meetings for 90 days, he or she can be removed from office. However, Pemberton pointed out, there is case law and guidance from the state attorney general that requires municipalities to file an ouster suit through their local attorney general’s office.
“If an ouster suit goes forward, and a member is found to be in violation of their charter of office, then courts can order that member removed,” Pemberton said. “But, to the best of my knowledge, as a city attorney, we’ve never had to go the way of an ouster suit, and I don’t predict that’s going to be the case, as of today.”
Alderwoman Keylon said, “We’re all busy. I’ve got a job like everybody else. But we all manage to show up.”
Keylon stated she understands that people have to work, but that’s a decision they have to make if they want to take on the responsibilities of being an alderman.
Other board members agreed that something must be done to address the problem of excessive absenteeism, and asked City Attorney Beau Pemberton review the Greenfield City Charter to see what it says about board members who fail to attend board meetings, and provide recommendations to resolve the problem.
“This may involve making changes to the charter in accordance with state law,” Pemberton said.
Another issue raised by the aldermen was paying board members, even when they fail to attend a meeting.
According to Pemberton, there is no provision in the city charter that requires board members to be present in order to get paid. He noted they are currently being paid, whether they attend meetings, or not, by virtue of being elected to their office. Pemberton was directed to look at options for changing the city’s pay regulations, so that board members would be required to be present in order to get paid. The city attorney responded by saying this could be done by ordinance, or conceivably by resolution, providing a majority of board members approve such an action. Pemberton stated he will work up a draft making the change, and have it available by the next meeting.
“That’s not going to change their minds (regarding attendance),” Alderman Galey said. “They’ve already said they don’t care whether they get paid, or not.”
Alderman High suggested contacting the board members about the absentee problem, both before and during the next meeting, to see if it helps alleviate the situation.
“We’ve got to do something,” Mayor McAdams said. “This is the second time this has happened.”
All of the items listed for discussion on the October board agenda will be added to agenda for the next board meeting, which is scheduled for November 9, starting at 5:30 p.m. The problem of absenteeism is expected to be a major topic of discussion at the meeting.