BD Majority Councilmembers Disrupt Meeting to Push their Agenda

No sooner did rollcall for the Black Diamond City Council meeting, on Thursday, October 6, wrap up than Councilmember Pat Pepper began demanding to be recognized along with Mayor Pro Tem Erika Morgan calling out Points of Order despite Mayor Carol Benson attempting to invite Fire Chief Greg Smith forward for a presentation.

Fifty-five seconds into the meeting Benson called for a five minute recess, which was protested by Morgan stating the Mayor needed to call for a vote in order to call a recess. Following the five minute recess, Pepper and Morgan continued to angrily disrupt the meeting demanding a call for a vote of the “Council’s Agenda” be taken. Pepper took it upon herself to usurp the Mayor’s authority to conduct the meeting by calling for a vote on the “Council’s Agenda,” which was not the official agenda posted by the City for the meeting.

Continuing to push her way into the position of running the meeting despite the Mayor calling Out of Orders and the Mayor being told she was not the presiding officer, Pepper totally ignored the Mayor, calling for a vote on the “Council’s Agenda,” which was only supported by majority Councilmembers Pepper, Morgan, and Brian Weber. In the middle of the commotion, Mayor Benson asked several times, “Are you going to be rude to Chief Smith and not let him do his presentation?”

Only five minutes into the meeting following the first recess, Benson called for a second recess of five minutes. When the meeting was called back into order again, Pepper came back in a quieter tone asking to “…move that the Council accept and look forward to the Fire Chief’s presentation…do I have a second?” Morgan seconded the motion made by Pepper. “All those in favor?” asked Pepper – to which Benson reminded her that she was not running the meeting.

“You know that we are the Council, and you are, you take the vote then, go ahead,” said Pepper.

Fire Chief Smith broke in stating that he would have to cancel the presentation, as he was not able to get the program to work on the computer. As Mayor Benson was thanking the Chief, Pepper spoke over Benson stating, “Well Chief Smith, we appreciate that you are here. We are sorry that that’s not working, and we did want to approve your presentation – the Council [Morgan, Weber, Pepper] wanted to approve your presentation.”

It must be noted that the “Council Agenda” did not include the Fire Chief’s presentation, however, the City Agenda did make note of his Presentation that was to take place prior to Approval of Agenda. This is not an uncommon practice as recognized in the City of Maple Valley where they recently recognized two staff members for receiving special Certificates of Completion prior to taking up the business of approving the Consent Agenda. Yet another city, Covington, recently gave two Proclamations regarding Safe Schools Week and Fire Prevention Week prior to Approval of Agenda. Also prior to Approval of Agendas, both cities held their Public Comments period.

Meanwhile, Councilmember Tami Deady pointed out, which was echoed, by Benson, that Fire Chief Smith was asked not to come to the meeting to present his information. “But do tell them that you did call and email to have him not show up,” stated Deady. “You tell that.”

In answer to Deady, Morgan stated that there were the same time constraints considered for setting the “Council Agenda” as the City has. She pointed out that the Chief complied with the City’s time constraints regarding when he would come present, however, the “proper” communication with the City did not get translated to herself as Mayor Pro Tem or Pepper, who is the “Council President.”

Morgan’s objection was that there are “internal problems” with communication and that it rested totally on the Mayor. She also stated that she requested Chief Smith send her and Pepper information on the presentation while assuring him that he would be put on the “Council’s Agenda.”

Bringing the attorney into the conversation regarding how to proceed with the meeting before them, attorney Bob Noe of Kenyon Disend once again advised Council as to the typical way to take care of adding/removing agenda items. Taking a look at the proposed “Council Agenda,” Noe stated that the items were essentially amendments to the resolutions presented on the City’s Agenda. He also advised that as an item was introduced on the agenda, that would be the time to amend the item as opposed to setting amending the item and then placing it on the agenda for a vote.

Referring to the attorney as a representative from the Kenyon Disend office, Morgan launched into problems with getting items on the agenda. Among the problems listed by Morgan were that Benson would remove items if she did not like the way things are going. Morgan continued informing the attorney that she and Pepper were the ones who should be approving what went on the agenda before it was properly noticed.

Publically apologizing and feeling that a new low for meetings had been reached, Councilmember Janie Edelman questioned the three majority Councilmembers – Morgan, Weber and Pepper – as to how often they were contacting staff with their questions. She wondered if they even had a clue as to what the City was doing, as they did not talk with anybody from the City. Edelman also pointed out that the Council rules the majority Councilmembers keep referring to contain illegal activities that attorneys have told them about, including the majority’s attorney, Talmadge, in his report.

As the meeting continued to roll along, a lengthy discussion began with a lengthy amendment brought forward by Brian Weber to a motion for passage of the Consent Agenda. Attorney Noe finally boiled the amendment down to pulling the meeting minutes as well as a Kenyon Disend voucher. Councilmembers voting for the amendment included Weber, Pepper and Morgan. Back to the main motion found all Councilmembers voting in favor of the amended Consent Agenda.

During his Public Comment time, Colin Lund from Oakpointe representing Crown Community Deveopment (CCD) Black Diamond gave brief comments regarding the Master Development Review Team (MDRT) Agreements before the Council. Taking his points from a letter written by Attorney Nancy Rogers of Cairn, Cross and Hempelmann, he reminded the Council that the Mayor, not the Council, was the executive administrator of the City and was the one who would make sure all contracts and agreements were “faithfully kept and performed.” He stated that in the Funding Agreement, the MDRT does not include a role or seat for the City Council. Citing from a letter that laid out warning points for not passing the proposed amended MDRT resolutions proposed by Pepper and Weber, Lund read Roger’s final comment into the record, “For all of these reasons, we ask that you advise the Council to cease consideration of the proposed amended resolutions. Instead, the Council should continue forward with the productive work of the City of Black Diamond, including approving extensions of each MDRT consultant’s contract, as originally proposed.”

At the conclusion of the Public Comments, Councilmembers began delving into the City business before them. At the start, Deady questioned Pepper over an email that had come in from out of town resident Kristen Bryant, who seemingly received information about the amended Stormwater Manual ordinance ahead of City residents. At one point of the exchange with Pepper, Deady tore into Pepper to the point the audience cheered. As talk resumed, Benson stated that the City Attorney looked over both documents and let the City know not to accept the amended version, but instead Councilmembers needed to adopt the City’s proposed Stormwater Manual ordinance.

During a confusing and at times heated exchange between Councilmembers, Seth Boettcher, Public Works Director, stated, “The confusion comes with competing ordinances. Typically in most cities you have one clearing house for the production of ordinances and resolutions. The City’s ordinance that we prepared with the assistance of Kenyon Disend, of which you also have a strike through underline showing the changes to the current existing municipal code.”

A suggestion was made by Edelman to pass the City’s Stormwater Manual, and then bring amendments at a later date. Directly following Edelman’s motion to adopt the Stormwater Manual, Pepper made a motion to pass the Amended version of the Manual. Ignoring what she was told about the Amended version being illegal and the fact that the motion on the floor for discussion was the original Stormwater Manual, Pepper continued to push for discussion on the Amended version.

As part of the discussion, Pepper admitted that as far as she knew she did not have an attorney that looked over the Amended documents.

“But you’re confident that these are legal,” asked Deady. “You want to pass these.”

“I do,” stated Pepper.

As predicted by resident Robbin Taylor during her Public Hearing testimony regarding the Stormwater Manual, a discussion of the topic would lead to either the non-passage of the Manual or the adoption of the Amended version. When a vote was taken on the Amended version of the Manual, majority Councilmembers (Morgan, Weber and Pepper) voted in favor of it. As soon as the Amended ordinance was passed by the majority Councilmembers, Mayor Benson very calmly stated, “I veto this ordinance,” – which drew a large round of applause from the crowd.

Coming back to the City’s original ordinance, Councilmembers were warned that not voting to pass the City’s version of the Stormwater Manual would lead to any future vote needing a super majority in order to pass it. Ignoring the warning, Morgan, Weber and Pepper stood by their no vote in a roll call vote. Although Pepper attempted to call back into motion a vote on the Amended ordinance, the Attorney Noe stated that the vote would have to take place at the next regularly scheduled Council meeting.

Moving on into the unfinished business, Pepper and Morgan raising their voices, arguing for the “Council’s Agenda” that contained AMENDED Resolutions for the Master Development Review Team (MDRT). Heated arguments ensued with Pepper attempting to take over the meeting once again.

“Item number 5 is where we are on the Council’s Agenda that has been approved here this evening,” said Pepper sternly.

“You are not running the meeting Councilmember Pepper,” said Benson.

Pepper tartly came back with, “You are not following our agenda, Presiding Officer.”

Once again Mayor Benson reminded Pepper of how agendas worked and how amendments to the various items were considered.

“I make a motion for number 5 on the…” stated Pepper with Benson attempting to make her points in the background. “No, you know what? We are the Council, You don’t get to do the agenda, and you don’t get to say what we do,” retorted Pepper. “Number 5 on the approved agenda is the Amended Resolution authorizing an Agreement with Parametrix.”

After being told she needed to make a motion to put the item on the City’s Agenda, Morgan argued for the “Council Agenda.”

“I appeal the decision of the Chair, who is not accepting the Council’s approved agenda,” stated Pepper. “All those persons who agree that it’s ok for the Council not to accept the agenda say yes.”

“You’re out of order,” stated Benson.

“No I’m not,” said Pepper. “All those persons do not agree with the Mayor’s decision to not accept the approved agenda, say nay. Nay. Now we are on the Council’s agenda. And we are on the Amended Resolution authorizing the Agreement with Parametrix.”

When told by the Mayor that she would deny the Amended Resolutions that were a part of the “Council’s Agenda” because they were illegal, Pepper told her no – that the Mayor would not deny them [the Amended Resolutions]. Ignoring warnings from the Mayor, Pepper forged forward making a lengthy statement. Then as Pepper brought each Amended Resolution for the MDRT forward, the only ones voting in favor of the Amended Resolutions were Morgan, Weber, and Pepper. After the majority Councilmembers approved the amended resolutions, Mayor Benson did as she stated she would do and denied them.