approves requiring more
specificity on items put before it
unanimously approved a resolution intended to assure that the
public -- and, in some instances, Council members -- know what's
requires that "law and Council rules be followed in letter and
spirit." Specifically, it directs that, from now on, proposed
ordinances and resolutions include enough detail in both their
title and legislative summary to make clear their purpose.
passed the resolution at its plenary session on Feb. 22, it
approved at a contentious committee meeting a new procedural
rule requiring the Council president to sign any approved
legislation within five working days, irrespective of how he or
she views the measure or voted on it. If the president is
unavailable or for any legitimate reason refuses to do so, the
obligation devolves upon the president pro-tem.
It is usual
procedure for Council to act on resolutions at a plenary session
and on rules changes at meetings of the executive committee.
Both sessions are open to the public. Like all of Council's
standing committees, the executive committee is comprised of all
13 members of Council.
The matter arose
after Council unanimously approved a resolution at its Feb. 8
meeting which lifted deed restrictions on a property in the Bear
area which is involved in a controversial proposed rezoning to
permit construction of a third unit of the Governors Square
shopping center. That resolution, sponsored by George Smiley,
who represents the area, referred to the property by its
numerical property tax designation and not its location. Because
it was included in the meeting's consent calendar, there was no
discussion at the session. It had previously been presented at a
meeting of Council's land use committee.
bodies use a consent calendar to deal en-bloc with routine
After the meeting
at which Smiley's resolution was approved, Robert Weiner charged
that the process was an attempt to deceive Council about the
intent and effect of the resolution. Council president Thomas
Kovach refused to sign the measure -- a necessary step before it
goes to County Executive Paul Clark for final approval.
Opponents of the shopping center rezoning -- which Smiley has
tabled -- picked up on their objections and sparked something of
a media frenzy.
That set the stage
for a verbal donnybrook when the resolution requiring clarity,
sponsored by David Tackett, came before the afternoon executive
committee meeting on Feb. 22.
chaired the meeting after Kovach recused himself on the grounds
that his former law firm represents the developer seeking the
rezoning. Kovach has not been personally involved in that
representation, but said his participation could give the
appearance of a conflict of interest.
Hollins forcefully exonerated Smiley of any wrongdoing regarding
the controversial resolution. In that regard, he said, the
resolution and its title had been drafted by the rezoning
applicant. The actual writing of measures that come before
Council by someone other than the sponsoring Council member is
not an unusual occurrence, he said.
did not do anything wrong or try to pull a fast one," Hollins
Smiley said the
resolution's title and content were not changed in any way as it
went through the usual vetting before the Planning Board and the
Department of Land Use approval process. Because there had been
no objections raised regarding the resolution or the deed change
it addressed, it was a proper matter to be handled on the
consent calendar, he said.
Smiley and Weiner
then exchanged rhetorical jabs. Smiley accused Weiner of
"running to the press" and "going behind the back of" rather
than openly confronting a fellow Council member. Weiner said he
was defending the principle of "transparent good government."
Kovach's refusal to sign the resolution "threatened the
integrity of the [legislative] process" and introduced the rules
change. It was approved by an eight-to-five committee vote with
Kovach, Weiner, Tackett, Lisa Diller and Bill Bell voting
At the later
plenary session, Hollins withdrew an unrelated measure slated
for introduction under his sponsorship because its title lacked
resolution in that regard came before Council for a vote, all
members joined him as co-sponsors.
There was no move
by Weiner -- or anyone else -- to attempt to rescind Smiley's
deed restriction resolution, an idea that he had raised during
media discussion over it.
There also was no
participation from opponents of the rezoning during the public
comment section of the session. Several had come to the earlier
committee meeting, but Hollins had restricted their opportunity
to comment there when the meeting ran over the allotted time and
threatened to interfere with the plenary session's being able to
start at its scheduled time.