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City Council to let mayor decide meeting seating

Monday, March 1, 2010 | 9:31 p.m. CST; updated 10:35 p.m. CST, Monday, March 1, 2010

COLUMBIA — City Manager Bill Watkins might get a seating demotion.

City Council voted 6-0 Monday to allow the mayor to decide where council members and the city manager should sit. Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala originally raised the issue at the Feb. 15 meeting because the city manager is not an elected official.

Ken Green, a Columbia resident, said the arrangement makes it look like the city manager has as much power as the council, if not more.

"Why does our City Council give our manager a seat, and dead center to boot?" Green said. "The city manager works for the council, which in turn works for the citizens of Columbia."

"I think perception has a lot to do with it," Skala said.

Skala said all of the council members reached a compromise in an informal meeting to allow the mayor to choose where everyone should sit.

"The only reason I requested this resolution was to make sure we were legitimately codifying the procedure for the public," Skala said. "I'm certainly in support of the compromise that was reached."

Watkins said he assists the mayor with procedural items, but he is not opposed to sitting elsewhere.

"I really don't care where I sit, honestly," Watkins said.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said this decision might also open up the possibility of other seating changes. She suggested future arrangements might be based on seniority, instead of the Sixth Ward seat being "forever relegated to the side."

Watkins also said the dais is set up to accommodate future council members, if the electorate ever decides to add more.

Seat order was not decided because Mayor Darwin Hindman did not attend the meeting.


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Comments

John Schultz March 2, 2010 | 3:11 p.m.

Does this "compromise in an informal meeting" amount to a violation of Missouri's Sunshine Law?

(Report Comment)
Dale Jones March 2, 2010 | 3:18 p.m.

Wow.....we needed this procedure in place years ago. I agree with this vote. I just hope the Mayor decides to implement the agreed upon arrangement.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 2, 2010 | 3:34 p.m.

Here's some more background on this issue, including a comment to council from Trib columnist Ken Midkiff:

School board needs to show who’s the boss
http://archive.columbiatribune.com/2008/...

Belcher gets a new view on meetings
Resident’s idea sparks school board seat swap.
http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2009...

From Ken Midkiff:

This has long been a pet peeve of mine.

To have NON-elected persons sitting at the table with ELECTED City Council members gives the impression that the City Manager (Bill) and Legal Beagle (Fred) have the same status as City Council members, to say nothing of the fact that the City Manager is seated front and center.

This gives absolutely the wrong impression.

The City Manager serves at the pleasure of the Council. The Legal Beagle serves at the pleasure of the City Manager. Both or either of these could give advice or a summary of a pending bill (and the staff recommendations) just as easily at a side table.

The ONLY non-elected person to sit with the Council should be the Clerk, because that person has to call the roll or register each vote...

Follow the example of the School Board.

I will confirm that I sent this email.

Ken Midkiff

Mike Martin
The Columbia Heart Beat
http://www.columbiaheartbeat.com

(Report Comment)

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