JUNE 9, 1997

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To vote or not to vote

Woodinville City Council by Andrew Walgamott
   The Woodinville City Council will be voting at their June 9 regular meeting on a resolution banning votes during study sessions. If passed, Resolution 126 would amend council procedures to read "No final action on any matter shall be taken by the City Council at any study session."
   Councilmember Marsha Engel requested the item be placed on the agenda after discussion at the City Council's June 2 meeting. She and Councilmember Art Saulness had asked the council to review procedures pertaining to voting at study sessions. Their concern stems from the surprise vote to accept city manager Joe Meneghini's resignation during the April 7 study session, and the public's perception of what occurs during study sessions.
   Councilmember Engel said several surrounding cities don't vote during study sessions, including Bothell, Kirkland, Redmond, and Mercer Island, and that the public needed to know what action the city was taking. The Meneghini resignation vote was not posted to the agenda at the April 7 meeting.
   "My biggest complaint is taking a vote on something the public wasn't notified about and we weren't notified on," Engel said.
   According to city clerk Jim Katica, the Council has taken final votes at study sessions in the past. "It's not frequent, but it has happened," Katica said. He added that in the past, those votes taken during study sessions had been noted in the council packet, which is available the Friday before each meeting.
   Last week, Councilmember Lucy DeYoung said that council procedures had been discussed "ad nauseum over the past four years."
   According to a letter dated June 5 and sent to the City Council from interim City Manager Roy Rainey, city staff is concerned that restricting voting to two of the council's four sessions a month will backlog issues.
   "The staff is concerned that, considering the increasing volume of public business and the compressed time frame within which action is expected, together with the Council's frequently expressed concern for containing the length of meetings, that any reduction in the opportunities for taking action will require longer and consequently later meetings," the letter states.
   The letter continues to say that if the council limits final actions to two meetings, it will have to "eliminate its policy of terminating meetings at 10 p.m." The council regularly extends its meetings past that time now.
   Engel said late last week that she still believed votes shouldn't be taken at study session, but said, "If there are items that the staff believes need to be brought to our attention immediately, but don't have time to put in the printed agenda, a special meeting can be called (for the same date and time) so that we might discuss and vote on that item or items." She believed the compromise would fulfill legal public meeting notice requirements, and it would also solve the public's perception of study sessions equating work sessions.