Keeping order

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 10, 2007

City Council president proposes fines, impeachment for disruptive members

By Coy O’Neal and Victor Inge

The Selma Times-Journal

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Selma City Council President George Evans is seeking to put some teeth into the council’s rules and regulations, hoping fines and possible impeachment would improve behavior during meetings.

During Monday’s meeting, Evans asked city officials to consider proposed regulations taking steps further than those currently outlined that he said would be consequences for disruptive behavior in city council meetings. The proposed action steps would be taken if current rules were not followed, like in meetings past.

Evans is proposing first-time offenders be fined $500 if they are deemed the cause for adjournment. A second offense would warrant another $500 fine. The fines would be due within five days. If they are not paid in cash or money order in 10 days, Evans suggests their paychecks be withheld.

Following a third offense, Evans suggests council members should be asked to voluntarily resign from office or risk impeachment. However, council members said the new rules would not be required if protocol was followed.

Councilman Johnnie Leashore, who read from Robert’s Rules of Order and Parliamentary Procedure, outlined what he said should be done by the chair during meetings.

Leashore said according to parliamentary procedure, the chairman’s gavel should always be respected and he should always maintain an even tone. If a council member exhibits disruptive behavior, current rules state the individual is first reprimanded by the chairperson, then asked to leave. Should a council member refuse to leave, law enforcement officers present will be asked to escort elected officials from the chamber, which was the case during the Aug. 13 meeting.

Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw said she feels there should be dialogue among city council members before additional procedures are put in place. &8220;We should follow parliamentary procedure,&8221; she said. &8220;But we should first take a look at ourselves.&8221;

Evans was visibly angry that Crenshaw, during the Aug. 13 meeting, spoke over his gavel and others. However, Crenshaw said Evans did not use his authority properly to prevent others from making what she called &8220;personal attacks,&8221; insinuating impropriety on the Selma Water Works and Sewer Board, where she serves as secretary/treasurer.

Evans said he would do his best to not show any partiality and try to come together as a group.

Councilman Reid Cain said, &8220;Thank y’all for being here and making us accountable. It really means a lot.&8221;

Following the Aug. 13 meeting, emails circulated in Selma asking citizens to come to council meetings and &8220;take back the city.&8221; Area ministers held prayer vigils outside City Hall, and created a standing-room only audience before elected officials. A group held hands in prayer outside during Monday’s meeting, then made their way inside council chambers.