Notes on the Governance Retreat June 21, 2022:

The following are some of the notes I took on some of the topics discussed. This meeting was just DISCUSSION, any policy changes would require action in a Council meeting.

Discussion of an Ethics Policy:

*Discussed having a 3-5 member committee to propose Council ethics policy that would include campaign contribution limits, disclosure of meetings with vendors, developers, etc., and a prohibition on vendors donating to councilmember/mayor campaigns.

*There were suggestions to go further and prohibit councilmembers from voting on an issue if they had met with the vendor; to require disclosure of discussions of agenda items with lobbyists and “special interest” groups.

*Comparisons to similar municipalities and how they handle ethics policies was requested.

*They discussed whether or not the Board of Ethics could assist with this.

*They discussed the need for councilmembers/mayor to adhere to Human Resources policies, particularly in the areas of training regarding sexual harassment and hostile work environments. The Council interacts with city staff and there are liabilities to the City if Councilmembers violate HR policies in these areas. A couple of members resisted the idea of needing to adhere to HR policies.

Discussion of use of personal computers and phones to do city business:

The discussion centered around the best practices regarding using personal devices when conducting city business. Issues that come into play are Sunshine Law compliance and the possibility of personal devices being subpoenaed. Some considerations are the cost of providing city owned computers and phones if council members are required to not use personal devices. They asked for more information on this, as well as information on the safety and security of using personal devices. Presently, the use of personal devices is considered safe and secure since council members use city e-mail, and log into department managed apps to do business.

Discussion of Council meeting agendas:

There was much discussion about increasing the amount of time for non ordinance items to be reviewed by council members before voting on them. The concern is that the current practice of allowingt items to be placed on the agenda late Thursday or on Friday for the following Monday's meeting does not allow council members and citizens an adequate amount of time to review the items. After discussing several options, I believe the agreement was to move the deadline for the agenda back two days in the week. There was also discussion about council members adding items to the agenda just before the deadline, and not using a process of vetting the items with the city manager and staff. This is probably where the greatest number of problems occur and council members and citizens feel most rushed to deal with issues without being able to properly understand and discuss them.

Discussion of Councilmembers’ process for handling service requests and requesting things of the City Manager:

They discussed the proper way for council members to submit citizens requests for service. The city works program is fully in place and eliminates duplicate service requests. It also provides status updates and aims to provide those within 24 to 48 hours. They discussed the usefulness of regular meetings between council members and the city manager and the need for council members to refrain from giving direction to anyone but the city manager, per requirements by the city charter.

Discussion of definitions of a council meeting and study session:

They discussed the purpose of the regular City Council business meetings versus study sessions. Some expressed a desire for all council members to “do homework ahead of time” and come prepared to vote in the regular business meetings with more limited discussion and questions of staff. The desire seemed to be to restore regular council meetings too a more business like and efficient the process, and shift they open discussions 2 study sessions and other more appropriate times for information gathering prior to at the business meeting. With this approach would be more in keeping with past practices of a number of years ago, and would facilitate more efficient business meetings. Council members are always encouraged to explain their reasoning for their votes, but they suggestion was made that much of the questions and discussion currently happening should occur prior to the voting meeting. There was discussion of they need to make study sessions more substantive and perhaps even hold them on site in different buildings if relevant to the subject being discussed. Study stations should be the place where big issues and controversial issues it could be discussed at length in a less formal format.

Discussion of process for a Councilmember placing an item on the agenda:

Just before the meeting concluded, there was discussion of a new process for council members individually placing items on the agenda. Within the past five years or so, council members began placing items on the agenda, often without vetting them through the city managers office. These items typically are not reviewed for legal compliance, budget impact, consistency with strategic goals, etc. The suggestion was made that such items should be brought forward to a study session or similar meeting and should require four votes from the City Council to direct the city manager to work on the item and present it on a business meeting agenda. This suggestion met with disagreement from some on the council. The process was like and two how things are handled at the state level. A legislator there's not simply put legislation to a vote without working the item through the proper process of committee reviews and recommendations.

This is merely a summary of notes that I took and is not intended to be all inclusive of discussion items. The meeting was livestreamed and recorded. Citizens can view the meeting online.

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