COLUMBIA — A second member of the Citizen Review Board will be able to attend a September training conference in Seattle if the Columbia City Council votes to dip into its food money for another $1,400.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe asked on Monday that the staff draft a resolution to transfer that amount from the fund it uses to pay for meals during pre-meeting dinners and other events involving city boards and commissions. She noted that the council in the past has spent less than what was budgeted on food and that during the first seven and a half months of this fiscal year, the council has spent only $5,000 of the $13,000 budgeted for food.
Citizen Review Board member Ellen LoCurto-Martinez originally asked the council in April for $4,400 to send two members of the group to a September conference of the National Association for Citizen Oversight of Law Enforcement in Seattle. Council members on May 3, however, voted to allocate $2,200 to send one person to the conference.
Hoppe argued Monday night that recent public reaction to a Feb. 11 marijuana enforcement raid by a Columbia Police Department SWAT team demonstrates that the review board faces difficult challenges.
“As we can see, they have some serious work to do, and I think they need to be well-trained, and when we established (the board), that was contemplated,” Hoppe said.
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said he plans to support sending a second board member to the conference but added that the situation carries a lesson.
“I would use this as a cautionary example of why you need to know what you’re asking for before you ask,” Thornhill said. “… They clearly didn’t have all their ducks lined up for the costs of the trip, which is probably a fair part of why they didn’t get approved when they asked for it the first time.”
City Attorney Fred Boeckmann said staff helped with the initial cost estimate but later learned the board could save money if members left Seattle a day earlier.
Although City Clerk Sheela Amin said the council could simply decide to make a perfunctory transfer of the money, Hoppe preferred a resolution so the council could have a formal vote on the measure. Her colleagues agreed by a vote of 6-1; Third Ward Council Gary Kespohl voted against the motion to bring the issue before the Council on June 7..