The lack of a quorum of the Martin City Council on Tuesday led a council member and audience member to ask how city bills have been getting paid.
On Tuesday, July 23, the city’s regular meeting as council members failed to have a quorum.
Mayor Sam Howell and council members Charles Justice, James Reynolds and Gary Akers were absent. Council members who were present, however, talked to about 20 audience members and discussed some issues before the meeting was canceled on Tuesday.
The council has not approved a budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year, something Council Member Bonita Compton complained about at the last city meeting in June. City meetings were also canceled for lack of a quorum in March and May. In April, the council tabled the approval of bills for February and March, and the council has not approved bills since that time.
One audience member asked on Tuesday, “Who takes care of the day-to-day functions of the city if they don’t show up?”
Compton voiced her concerns about that lack of approval of bills. She told him, “Well, my understanding is, and I can’t tell you that, but I know this, when we don’t approve to pay the bills, how are the bills getting paid if we’ve not approved it? That’s my question.”
City Clerk Ethel Clouse told her that council members were given copies of check registers.
“No. This is the book that says you’ve already written the checks out,” Compton told her.
That was one of three concerns voiced by council members on Tuesday. Council Member April Gayheart voiced concerns because public comment was not on the meeting agenda, saying, erroneously, that a meeting is not a public meeting without public comment.
Compton told her, “We are sitting here for your all’s tax dollars, that you pay to have spent in this building, and you all have a right, whether we agree with it or we don’t, you all have a right to voice your concerns. And if we can’t take it, then we have to just not show up or not come. I mean, folks, we’re adults here. We have to agree to disagree.”
Compton also voiced concerns about the way the city’s June 25 meeting was recorded in the city record.
That meeting lasted about two hours, but the minutes presented to council members on Tuesday for approval contained only one statement. It read, “Bonita Compton was ad-vised by Attorney Doug Adams that the agenda could not be altered.”
A review of the recording of that meeting, however, shows that Adams made no such comment on June 25.
Prior to canceling the meeting Tuesday, Compton clarified that Adams informed her that regular meeting agendas may be changed. State law prohibits any change to the agendas of special meetings, which must be announced at least 24 hours in advance.
Stating that a Kentucky League of Cities handbook explains that regular meeting agendas can be changed, Compton asked Sharon Caudill, who recorded the June 25 meeting, whether she has the minutes showing what was discussed.
“Yeah. I’d say they’re recorded on my phone because we had a problem with this,” Caudill replied, pointing to the city’s voice recorder.
Audience member Deanna Mullins offered to loan the city her recording of the meeting.
“I have the minutes written down, but, I mean, that’s what we were told to do, so,” Caudill said.
She reported that Howell told her to use that statement as the meeting minutes for June 25. She said, “I was just doing what I was told.”
On June 25, the council voted to approve appointing Compton as “acting mayor” to over-see the meeting, to change the agenda to add new business, old business and public comments, to appoint Caudill as acting city clerk to keep meeting minutes and to approve meeting minutes for April 23.
At that meeting, Council Member James Reynolds provided an update about the water-line project for the Renaissance Learning Center and Compton voiced concerns about city finances, asking to hold a worksession on July 22 so members could discuss these issues prior to a regular meeting.
After that discussion, several meeting attendees also addressed the council, complaining about the city’s proposed annexation of outlying areas, financial issues, problems with the city ballpark and other things.
During a June 25 discussion about the city tourism, Caudill voiced frustration about a check she issued for that agency.
“Some money is spent that not everybody knows about. I could tell you that right now. Absolutely,” Caudill told the council on June 25. “Today, I give Dwight McKinney a check that upset me rather highly because of the stuff that it had on it, the receipts showed me. I’m telling you.”
No one asked for more details about the check to McKinney, who attendees said oversees a Little League team. The issue has not since been addressed by the council.
Gayheart apologized to meeting attendees for the lack of a quorum on Tuesday.
“I have something to say before you all leave,” she said. “I appreciate you coming. I appreciate you all coming last night, and you’ve put your time in to come down here, and I’m sorry that this has happened again. And we are here because that’s our position and it’s what we’re supposed to be doing. But there are legalities that we have to follow also, and I just want you to know that. So, we’ll be here when we’re supposed to be here, unless it’s for sickness or something, but, now, we can only answer for ourselves.”
Visitor Kathryn “Catbird” Isaac said the city should apologize to Jonathan Newman of Summit Engineering, who said he attended the meeting because he needed signatures for close-out documentation and an addendum to the contract for the waterline project for the RLC school. He gave those documents to the city clerk prior to the meeting, but, without a quorum, there was no vote to approve them.