Based on Monday night’s fiasco, St. Cloud residents are justified in questioning whether City Council President Carol Lewis is qualified for the responsibilities. During the discussion of Jeff Goerger’s resolution, President Lewis slowly lost it. After the motion to adopt the resolution had properly been seconded, President Lewis opened discussion. By itself, that isn’t improper. In the larger context, though, it was improper. President Lewis should have ruled it out of order because it violated City Council rules.
Specifically, it violated City Council Rule 13, which says “Copies of ordinances, resolutions and other pertinent material shall be made available for inspection at the Council Secretary’s Office on the day of the meeting.” This wasn’t made available to the Council before Monday night’s meeting, meaning that councilmembers couldn’t read through the resolution, much less formulate questions or disagreements. This was ambush through secrecy.
As President of the City Council, it is Ms. Lewis’ responsibility to insist upon transparency and fair play. Monday night, she didn’t protect either foundational governing principle. That’s unacceptable. Without adherence to that rule, it’s government-by-ambush, which is precisely what happened.
The good news is that President Lewis got so flustered at the official end of the meeting that she adjourned the meeting before voting on Jeff Goerger’s intentionally dishonest resolution. Though the Times is reporting that the resolution passed, it didn’t because the Council voted on whether to call the question before adjourning. They didn’t vote on the resolution itself.
Further, President Lewis ruled that Councilman Johnson’s motion was out of order. She was rebuked for that when Johnson told her that he wasn’t offering a motion, that he was just including the text of his resolution in the record for the purpose of discussing Goerger’s motion.
Lewis also ignored Council rule no. 6, which says (in part) “All items of business before the Council for the first time shall be listed as new business or on the Consent Agenda with the notation indicating that it is new business.”
These rules were last amended in August, 2017. Further, they weren’t named City Council suggestions. They’re titled City Council Rules. As the City Council president, Ms. Lewis is the protector of order and fair play for the Council. Again, she failed in that responsibility.