Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

TOP STORY >>Cabot City Council restores clerk's duties

IN SHORT: Marva Verkler wins back all of the responsibilities she held over the years until she had a falling out with the previous mayor, and council committees will first review all ordinances .

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council passed three ordinances Monday night, two that restored the duties of the clerk-treasurer that were taken away about four years ago and one aimed at ending the hostility and council gridlock that characterized much of the past four years.

Mayor Eddie Joe Williams, who says one of his goals is to get everyone working together, sponsored all three ordinances.
The first ordinance restored Clerk-Treasurer Marva Verkler’s check-writing duties that were taken from her by ordinance in April 2003, and the second repealed the January 2003 ordinance that established the finance department and created the position of finance director.

Verkler filed suit against former Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh to get her duties back, but later dropped the suit. For all practical purposes, she has been in charge of finances again since Jan.1, when Williams took over as mayor, but she thanked the council for making the restoration of her authority official.
“Thank you all very much,” she said.

Dale Walker, the former finance director who was hired by and responsible to Stumbaugh, is now the budget manager. He said in a later interview that the scope of his job has not changed. The change is that now Verkler, not the mayor, is his boss.
The third ordinance requires that all business to be considered by the council – ordinances, resolutions or other proposed actions – must first go before a committee of five council members for review.

Williams said during a council workshop about two weeks ago that he wants no surprises. By the time any item comes out of committee, it would hopefully have the support of all five members, which would be enough votes to pass it before the full council.

Newly elected City Attorney Jim Taylor will be responsible for assigning the items proposed for council action to one of three committees: fire and police, budget and personnel or public works.

“We’re kind of like the state legislature now,” Taylor said about the new system. “A bill has to go to committee first.”
The Cabot City Council has always met once a month. But with the new system in place, council members will have to meet in committee at least once before every council meeting or no proposed legislation will ever go before the council.

“They’re going to have to work together,” Taylor said.

Ken Williams, a former Cabot city attorney who is now a council member, said he was concerned about the portion of the ordinance dealing with getting emergency legislation before the council without committee review.

As it was drafted and passed, the mayor, city attorney and chairman of the committee that would have reviewed the legislation must unanimously approve bypassing the process.

Alderman Williams said the council should decide what legislation it would consider on an emergency basis. But the mayor said he wanted no surprises before the council and no more ordinances endlessly debated. And the other council members offered no comments for either position.

“If I’m the only one concerned about it, maybe it isn’t a big deal,” Alderman Williams said. And he voted “aye” making the vote unanimous among the seven council members present.

Teri Miessner, one of the six new members of the council, was reportedly ill and did not attend the first meeting of the year.