Councilman Woody Holland was out of the country on business during last month’s council meeting in which a new fiscal year budget was approved that included the elimination of two high-ranking city positions. He said, however, he watched the meeting on the Internet and saw some things that bothered him, including council members who were trying to get an explanation on the measure before they cast a vote being cut off and reproached by the mayor.
“It appeared that there was a lot of confusion on this (budget) as it was being discussed,” Holland said. “To me, there were some things that happened from the mayor’s position to the council and back and forth it was probably less than professional. I guess I’m just going to say that we all need to clean our act up a little bit and not interrupt people when they’re talking. When someone has the floor I think they should be allowed to finish their statement, whatever it is, whether we agree with it or not.”
Holland also made reference to the fact that some of the confusion may not have taken place if all council members would have known about the potential personnel cuts before the meeting. Mayor J. Collins admitted after last month’s meeting that he had only discussed his proposal beforehand with Councilmen Verland Best and Patrick Henrickson, who voted for the staff reductions.
“The more we know about what each other are thinking before we start, the better we can try to understand it and work together to get to the final result,” Holland said. “I guess that’s aimed at me as much as anybody because I’ve cut people off in the past and I’m going to try not to do that in the future.”
Collins said if he had to do it over again he wouldn’t change how he handled the budget vote because he had given the council ample opportunity to make cuts to the budget and he had expressed in open meetings his contention that more needed to be done to reduce the city’s budget, including cutting personnel.
“It is what it is. I don’t regret anything I did,” he said. “I’m just interested in moving the city forward.”
The council took a new vote Tuesday to affirm the previous 2-1-1 budget vote based on Councilman Rusty Dean’s contention that the charter states for a vote to count a majority of those present must vote in favor of a measure for it to pass. With Holland out of town and Councilwoman Shirley Marchman voting to abstain, there were two votes in favor of the budget as opposed to the majority of three of the four council members present the charter requires.
City Attorney David Mecklin agreed that a new vote needed to be taken to affirm the previous vote to adhere to the city’s charter.
“In the rare situation where you have a 2-1-1 vote, you could argue that that does not technically meet the requirements of the city charter, which requires you have a majority of the people present vote in favor,” Mecklin said.
“I don’t think anyone could actually challenge the action from last month other than someone on the council. Assuming (the council) doesn’t choose to sue each other over that then I think it would be appropriate to reaffirm the vote.”
Marchman previously voted to abstain from the vote because she said she wasn’t sure what changes the mayor was trying to make to the budget before it was approved and Dean voted against it because he said the mayor hadn’t previously approached him to explain his reasoning for eliminating the administrative captain’s position at the Villa Rica Police Department and the city’s deputy city manager of utilities.
Mecklin made it clear that the council’s new vote was only to reaffirm the previous vote to ensure there were no technical irregularities and not a new vote on the city’s fiscal year budget. The new vote to affirm the previous vote was unanimous.