Needles, CA: Needles City Council talk about abstain only voting.
Members of the Needles City Council talk about abstain only voting during a Needles City Council Meeting held on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 in Needles, California.
Suzanne Sheppard, resident of Needles, California, spoke to members of the Needles City Council as well as the public about the issue of abstain only voting regarding the Charter.
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“Previously, I said that the Charter assume implicitly that every council member is able to vote. I would add now that if that underlining assumption were not imply by the Charter, then there would be no point in having either City Council or a Charter. But the City’s guiding documents dispute on abstain only voting. So when the blanketed of abstentions began last December, you appeared – quite understandably – not to know what to do, and the public did not know what you were thinking. The result is a fundamental breakdown in transparency between you and the public. It created an ore of unpredictability at the council meetings. Unpredictability in government, attended or not, is destructing of public trust and is destructive of government and formal functions. The propose Charter amendment on abstain only voting would mandate an unexcused absence for any member the first time, and the disqualification for the member’s second time. Giving the durability of a Charter amendment, this provision which convey the unmistakable message that every council member – every vote – is critically important and it be treated as such. That message is virtually explicit, giving the consequences for violation. The amendment would emphasize citizen’s rightful expectations, then except for only excuse absences, all of our council members be able to participate fully at every council meeting,” said Suzanne Sheppard.
Afterwards, Needles City Attorney John Pinkney spoke saying that the situation with Needles City Council Member Louise Evans was not of her making; it was not her fault, and said that the Needles City Council has no ability to dictate how another member of the Needles City Council can vote.
“Once elected; once the public exercises constitutional rights of elect their representatives and elected representative takes office, that representative has 3 choices: they either have the right to vote in favor, against, or to abstain; those are their choices when they are present for a meeting. So we had a situation where we had a council member was unable to vote, the City needed to continue to conduct business and so we proposed a measure – a resolution – an amendment to your rule procedures that would acknowledge that an abstention counters with the majority vote,” said Needles City Attorney John Pinkney.
Needles City Attorney John Pinkney then read some of the authority related to is issue and how the voting process as a representative works as well as what can happen if you remove somebody the was elected.
But overall, “The public has the right to elect them and the right to remove them”, said Needles City Attorney John Pinkney.
Members of the Needles City Council and Needles City Attorney John Pinkney talked about this issue and is the City of Needles Charter said and what can be done to address this issue if it ever comes up again, but after discussing the issue, no action was taken members of the Needles City Council regarding Abstention.
Needles City Council Member Louise Evans was not present at the Needles City Council Meeting held on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015.
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** Background Summary: **
– According to the City of Needles, after the elections in November 2014, a newly elected Needles City Council Member abstained on all votes at the request of the Needles City Council Member’s employer.
– During Needles City Council Members Requests at the Needles City Council Meeting held on Tuesday, February 10th, 2015, Needles City Council Member Louise Evans explained to members of the Needles City Council and the public on why she was voting “Abstain” on all of the agenda items which was because of a little conflict of interest issue with her employment and awaiting appointment which she hopes will be soon.
– Members of the Needles City Council discuss about new rules of procedure counting of abstention votes during a Special Needles City Council Meeting held on Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 in Needles, California to deal with the abstentions. The Special Needles City Council Meeting was posted and emailed for the public to view on Monday, February 23rd, 2015.
As read from the agenda item sheet provided by the City of Needles, “Councilmember Evans was duly elected to the Needles City Council, but since her election has abstained on all votes. In order for the City to continue to conduct business for the general health, safety and welfare of City residents, staff has drafted the attached proposed amendment to Resolution 9-8-98 Section 9, which amendment shall result in an abstention vote being counted as a vote in support of the majority vote of a quorum. Recommended Action: Adopt Resolution No. 2015-15 amending Resolution No. 9-8-98 establishing rules of procedure counting abstention votes with the majority of a quorum.”
Members of the Needles City Council later voted to adopted a resolution (Resolution No. 2015-15) amending its rules of procedure to count abstention votes with the majority vote of the Council, but mention that the approve vote for the new rules of procedure counting of abstention votes is temporary and may come back to members of the Needles City Council in 90 days or sooner for review and possible removal.
– During Needles City Council Members Requests at the Needles City Council and Needles Public Utility Authority Meeting held on Tuesday, March 10th, 2015, Needles City Council Member Louise Evans announced to members of the Needles City Council and the public that she can now vote on Needles City Council agenda items. This excited members of the Needles City Council as well as some in the public.
– As result of the announcement by Needles City Council Member Louise Evans, Resolution 2015-15 was later subsequently repealed.
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For more information regarding the Needles City Council Meetings, please contact Dale Jones in the City Clerk’s Office at the City of Needles at: 1 (760) 326-2113 Ext. 345.