It will all be on the record from now on. That was the reasoning given as the Dunkirk Common Council approved the elimination of its workshop sessions. Instead, council will go directly to on-the-record regular meetings as a result of passing Resolution 74-2012 on Tuesday.
Discussion of the resolution began during what may be this council's last workshop session.
City Attorney Ron Szot went over the process of amending council's rules of order.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
Dunkirk Common Council along with city officials meet in the conference room for a workshop session prior to Tuesday’s regular meeting. Workshop sessions such as this will no longer be held as council voted to eliminate the workshop and just hold regular meetings beginning in October.
"The City Code says that council rules are set by resolution, that's been in place since 1980," Szot explained. "Every two years we've found that by resolution council set rules."
Szot said council's rules have been amended by resolution a few times except for 2008 when it was done by a local law changing the time.
"That was unnecessary," he stated. "The rules of order this council passed on Jan. 1 by Resolution 13-2012 is what you're amending, so you just can amend it by resolution."
Szot added that Chris McGraw of the City Clerk's office found that at some point the City Code, City Charter and council's rules of order were combined in one binder, leading people to believe the appendix covering the rules was part of the City Charter, which it wasn't.
Fourth Ward Council-woman Stacy Szukala said she was willing to give it a try but was concerned how order would be kept.
"I can tell you exactly how order's going to be kept, everyone will have to be recognized," Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak replied. "When I'm asking for discussion, we are asking questions of people in the galley (department heads); before anyone can answer ... they will have to raise their hands so minutes can be kept correct. So there will not be this kind of just jump in, but that won't limit the asking of questions. It's just that I'll have to, and I was going to remind everyone, it's just going to be more formal and we are jumping around asking questions. ... If it doesn't work we can always change our resolution and come back to this."
Department of Public Works Director Tony Gugino asked if Access 12 would be televising the meetings.
"That's part of the reason we're doing it," replied Second Ward Councilman William Rivera, council's ex-officio member to the Cable TV Board. Rivera added it was for people who couldn't get to the workshops and were watching on television.
Prior to the vote on 74-2012, Kiyak read a statement she said was on council's behalf.
"Eliminating the workshop is to enhance government transparency - the current practice of a workshop that is not part of the public record does not accomplish this," she began. "Having a television camera recording the workshop proceedings only benefits those residents watching television. The conversation that takes place during the workshop is not a part of the public meeting records. If you miss the televised workshop, or do not attend in person, residents are not informed of what was discussed. You cannot obtain a copy of the transcript in the clerk's office, nor read about the discussion in the meeting minutes posted on the website.
"Council feels that when questions are asked, especially of department heads, their responses should be part of the public record."
Kiyak stated there will be no extra cost in eliminating the workshop.
"We are making this change in the best interests of serving the public. We feel confident that residents will very much appreciate that they will now be privy, via formal meeting minutes, to what and why council is casting their vote," Kiyak continued. "As it has been currently practiced, a separate meeting has had the potential for details being kept in the dark. Now, with all details being recorded, the council meetings will cover issues much more inclusively. The council wants to eliminate the perception of residents not knowing what's really going on, and this is a step in the direction of adding another layer of transparency.
"Council feels this is a win-win for all residents."
Tuesday's meeting was not televised.
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