Friday, November 6, 2015

Discussion of Police Pay Blocked by Mayor

This article continues the prior "Support Our BIPD" article, linked here:
Attend Tonight's Meeting to Support Our BIPD!

If you weren't able to attend the meeting on Tuesday, you may be wondering about the Council's discussion regarding additional compensation for our Belle Isle police officers. Unfortunately, any Council discussion on this matter was completely precluded by the improper actions of Belle Isle Mayor William Brooks and the commissioners who facilitated those actions.

Under our City's meeting procedures, a City Council meeting does not end until a commissioner makes a motion to adjourn. This motion has to be seconded by another commissioner before proceeding to a "voice vote" where commissioners speak their votes in unison. As the meeting chair, the mayor is empowered to decide whether the motion passed based on the voice votes. But if there is any question as to the outcome of this vote, the chair is also responsible for clarifying the vote by performing a "roll call" vote where the commissioners vote one by one.

Unfortunately, that procedure bears little resemblance to what occurred on Tuesday. The draft minutes for the Tuesday meeting (linked below) tell part of the story. At the end of Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Nielsen stated that she had additional business to discuss. Ignoring her request, Mayor Brooks asked Council for a motion to adjourn. Commissioner Nielsen repeated her request to speak, and was again ignored by Mayor Brooks asking for a motion to adjourn.

Although the meeting had only been underway for about 20 minutes and there was clearly still city business for discussion, Commissioners Van Dyke and Shuck obliged the Mayor, quickly moving and seconding a motion to adjourn. The third time Commissioner Nielsen tried to speak, she was cut off by Mayor Brooks, who stated that there was a motion on the table for adjournment and immediately called for a vote. Within a span of approximately ten seconds, the Council voted, Mayor Brooks stated that the motion passed, and Mayor Brooks and Commissioner Van Dyke disappeared out the door.

The biggest problem in all this? That motion to adjourn did not pass. While three commissioners (Karl Shuck, Larry Ady, and Keith Van Dyke) voted to adjourn, four commissioners (Harvey Readey, Sue Nielsen, Lydia Pisano, and Ed Gold) voted against adjournment. There was no roll call vote, which the mayor was required to call because the vote was too close to discern by voice vote. Any commissioner could have also called for a roll call vote, but in the seconds it took them to comprehend what had happened and realize what needed to be done, the Mayor was already in his Lexus and pulling out of the parking lot.

City Attorney Frank Kruppenbacher commented that he's "never seen anything like this" in his many years of of experience as attorney for numerous local governments and boards.

Although Mayor Brooks, Commissioner Van Dyke, Commissioner Ady, and Commissioner Shuck successfully blocked the rest of the Council from discussing the officer retention problem and its potential solutions, you can learn more about the issue in the channel Channel 9 article and video linked below:

Belle Isle Commissioner Fights for Higher Police Pay - WFTV Channel 9

The City Clerk has posted draft minutes from the Tuesday meeting (linked at the end of the article). The last two paragraphs are of particular note, stating that:

Due to some concerns with the adjournment process, Attorney Kruppenbacher was asked for his opinion on whether the meeting could reconvene. At 7:25pm he stated that Council is not in a noticed meeting and the Sunshine Law is in effect. He read from the Roberts Rules of Order, 11th Edition, Page 48 which reads, “Under all of the voting methods described above except a counted rising vote (or a counted show of hands), the result is determined by the chair’s judgment as to the prevailing side‐which it is his duty, in doubtful cases, to verify beyond reasonable doubt, and to the satisfaction of the members, by the procedures described below.”

Attorney Kruppenbacher said what had just happen was the Chair using his judgment; he heard it passed and the meeting was adjourned by these rules. Attorney Kruppenbacher understands that some of the Council members are stunned, but the Chair adjourned before anyone made a motion to have a call of the vote. He recommends that we open discussion on “adjournment rules” at the upcoming workshop. He stated that we cannot reconvene because it will be starting a new meeting which was not properly posted; in addition we lost another member who was in attendance.

City Council Meeting Minutes - November 3, 2015 (DRAFT)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Attend Tonight's Meeting to Support Our BIPD! [UPDATE]

If you drove past Cornerstone Charter Academy or went online this morning, you may have seen notices about Commissioner Sue Nielsen attacking the Belle Isle Police Department. These notices urge residents to attend tonight's 6:00 p.m. City Council meeting in order to protect our local PD. Playing on resident fears about shutting down the BIPD or the school are common scare tactics around election time in Belle Isle. But Belle Isle elections aren't until March, so something must have prompted today's notices. What's going on?

It was recently announced that beloved Belle Isle officers Dawn Nodzon and Tren Trendafilov will soon be leaving the BIPD. Dawn Nodzon is our City's Community Resource Officer and has won the "Officer of the Month" award an incredible THREE times. Officer Trendafilov is a local Belle Isle resident who has patrolled our City's lakes and streets for years, also winning the "Officer of the Month" award in Belle Isle. Both officers have shown significant dedication to the BIPD over the years, but our officers need jobs with retirement benefits and/or higher pay in order to support their families.

Concerned by this loss of two of our best officers, Commissioner Sue Nielsen called Belle Isle Police Chief Rich Ring last Friday to discuss how the City can do a better job of retaining highly-trained officers. More specifically, Commissioner Nielsen consulted with Chief Ring regarding whether the City's implementation of an officer retirement plan would help solve the retention problem. And while Chief Ring believes that retirement benefits are not the whole solution, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

So how did this discussion of increasing officer benefits become an all-call for residents to attend tonight's meeting and prevent Commissioner Nielsen from attacking the police department? Certainly not from Chief Ring, who would welcome new benefits and/or increased pay for his officers if he had the resources to provide additional compensation, but Chief Ring was also required to report this conversation to City Manager Keith Severns. Regardless, Chief Ring is doing the best he can with the budget he is provided by the City. The 2015-16 budget, as with prior years' budgets, concentrates City resources in upper-level positions at City Hall, especially the salary of our City Manager.

Most readers of the Sun are probably already aware that the Belle Isle City Manager receives well over $150,000 per year in salary plus benefits. But in the wake of losing two skilled officers, it's important to consider the message that this disproportionately large City Manager salary is sending to our valued Belle Isle police officers, who make significantly less than their Edgewood counterparts and receive no retirement benefits. Salaries should be proportional to ability and workload, and it is a tragedy to lose two of our finest BIPD officers because the City is unwilling to allocate sufficient resources to financially recognize our officers' ability and experience.

If you want to support our BIPD officers and learn more about potential solutions to the officer retention problem we face in Belle Isle, please be sure to attend tonight's City Council meeting at 6:00 p.m.!

Disclaimer: Except where specifically attributed to others, these are my thoughts and opinions expressed herein. I don't want this article to be construed as a veiled plea from your trusted Belle Isle police officers for additional benefits or pay, although they certainly deserve it.

UPDATE 12/2/15:

At the December 1 City Council meeting, Chief Ring referenced the Sun's November 3 article about the BIPD, articulating his concern that the above statement regarding two talented Belle Isle officers who would "soon be leaving the BIPD" might be misinterpreted by readers to mean that these officers had already left the BIPD. In case that is so, please be assured that these officers are still with the BIPD for the time being while seeking new employment.

Read more in the following linked article: Belle Isle Officer Retention Update