There was an air of contempt in the Dec. City Council Meeting after the discussion about adding the removal of the T.C. Bloxom sign at the REC Center as an item to the agenda. Its effect on the proceedings of the evening was palpable.
This was perhaps showcased best by the outcome of the vote for the very first item on the agenda, that being the adoption of the minutes of previous meetings. In this case, the City Council was adopting the minutes for the Oct. and Nov meetings.
The motion was made by Councilman Pam Bloxom of Dist. E and Seconded by Councilman Keith Beard of Dist. D. Mayor Gardner opened the floor to discussion, the Council remained silent, and it was brought to a vote. After the votes of those in favor were cast, Councilman Herbert Taylor of District A interjected, “I’ll have a discussion about it. Why don’t we separate the minutes for October and the regular session in November?”
Bloxom responded, “Why?” “Have we had any discussion about it?” asked Terry. “Well, actually, the minutes for November are wrong,” said Walker. “What’s wrong with November?” asked Terry. “You went ahead and did some of the things on the agenda,” responded Bradford.
At this point, it was brought up that after the walkout that took place before the November City Council meeting, Beard had thanked some of the people who helped with the National Night Out event. Given that recognition for those that participated in National Night Out was an item on the agenda for November’s Council Meeting, it was argued that the matter shouldn’t have been addressed.
After the discussion, adopting the minutes of previous meetings was brought to a vote. Beard and Bloxom were for, and Bradford, Taylor, and Walker voted against.
This vote turnout was not an isolated instance either. Various items on the agenda failed to pass with Councilman Keith Beard and Councilman Pam Bloxom voting in favor, and Councilman Bradford, Councilman Taylor, and Councilman Walker voting against. In certain instances, the motions wouldn’t get seconds, with some not getting a motion period.
One example was with the potential adoption of a resolution showing support for a water enrichment fund application. The Mayor explained that the grant would be used to put in a 6-inch water main that would service 32 homes and approximately 150 residents.
Councilman Walker said, “That’s the one we discussed in the workshop and you said the state had requirements? Someone was on vacation and they couldn’t tell us how they decided to vote that area.”
Mayor Gardner responded, “It’s on a point system. The last time this was up to get done, emergency funding came in. So that was tabled then, so it’s coming back to try and get this funding done.”
When the item was brought to a vote, it failed with two in favor and three opposed.
When it came time to bring the item of adopting a resolution for the Local Government Assistance Program Application to a motion, the room fell silent. Given that there was no motion, the Mayor decided to pass on the item for now but said, “Let me explain if we don’t get the grant money, it just goes to another city. I just want y’all to be aware of that.”
Next up was a grant that was described as, “free money from the DOTD,” by the Mayor, which would be used for improvements at the Minden Airport. When it was brought to a vote, two voted in favor and three against. At that point, the room erupted in chatter, and the Mayor stated, “This is giving free money to other cities since we don’t want it.”
At this point, members of the community decided to ask questions to the Council regarding their reasons for their votes. “I really just don’t see why you would vote against something that’s just a grant that’s going to improve our airport. We don’t have to pay money out of our pockets, why not take this money and help move the airport forward,” asked a member of the public, Kerry Easley. He then asked Bradford, Taylor, and Walker individually to explain why they didn’t vote on it.
Walker replied, “Because we still have the issue of the employee manual, we have not discussed it. I’m waiting on us, and I’m giving the Mayor time, to put the employee manual on the agenda for next month, but right now…”
Easley interjected, “So you’re voting against improvements for the airport and free money because you’re waiting to get a handbook on the agenda? That doesn’t make any sense to me.”
“It makes perfectly good sense because we’re compromising, and here’s the thing. When I compromise, then our issues are never heard and then we’re back at the drawing board, we’re back trying to amend the agenda. So it’s about compromise on both parts, not just the Council Members but also the Mayor,” replied Walker.
Taylor’s response was, “City improvements can wait until the handbook is addressed. What would you rather us just, walk out the meeting again, or at least try to have a meeting?”
Bradford’s response was, “We have other issues that are just as important as the airport, we need to address those issues.”
The Mayor then stated that at the workshop, he asked all the City Council members to read the handbook and make the changes they want and that he had not received any of these changes as of yet.
Terika responded, “I have not emailed it to you, but I requested a copy from Wanda on Tuesday. Have I gone through it and made the corrections or revisions that I would like to see in it? I have.”
Later during the meeting, the item of the budget amendments was up for discussion. Micahel Fluhr, City Clerk, was present to explain what exactly was being amended.
“It is the state law that says if you are 5% of the expense side over your budgeted amount or 5% below your revenue budgeted amount, you have to amend the budget. We have been through the individual funds, it is my belief that we have one major fund where we need definitely an adjustment or an amendment. That is the sales tax fund,” said Fluhr.
When the motion was brought to a vote, two voted in favor and three voted against. Bloxom asked Fluhr what would happen due to the failed vote. “It will probably be noticed in the audit report that we did not comply with state law,” said Fluhr. “So another non-compliance?” asked Bloxom.
“Probably so yes,” said Fluhr.
Fluhr also decided to give a public comment later in the meeting to close his report on the Financial Budget.
“I would like to close my report with a personal statement. As some of you already know, after the Council Meeting in Oct., I had turned in my resignation to step down from my position, effective Dec. 31, 2019. At that time I realized that my views, goals, and interests, specifically as treasurer, are no longer aligned with the City Council, where individual members are constantly engaged in divisiveness, partisanship, and the quest for absolute power and control.
“At the express wish of the Mayor, and in the interest of the city, I’m willing to postpone my departure from the city’s workforce until Mar. 31, 2020 in order to complete the upcoming audit and the implementation of the election results related to alcoholic beverages. To conclude my statement, I would like to thank the many residents and business leaders for their support, encouragement, and requests for me to stay in my position. I wish everybody a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year,” said Fluhr.
This meeting, in particular, saw a higher than average amount of community participation and input. Many times throughout the meeting, and not always when the floor was open for discussion, members of the public came forward and expressed their thoughts, concerns, and frustrations with the Council. Some even hurled insults at the Council members and other members of the City government, calling them things like “idiots” and “babies.”
During some of their comments, the question of Charles Minnifield’s capabilities as the City Attorney came into question. This resulted in a direct back and forth between Minnifield and a member of the public. At a point, Minnifield was nearly escorted out of the room. “Are you saying I’m out of order?” asked Minnifield. “Yes sir,” responded Gardner.
It didn’t escalate to the point of Minnifield being removed, and by the end of the discussion that he said that the employee handbook would be on the agenda by January.
While discourse was present throughout the meeting, that isn’t to say that some city businesses wasn’t handled. Things that the Council did approve included the promotion of Police Officer Tim Morris to the Rank of Captain and Police Officer Brandon Curry to the Rank of Sergeant. They also moved to adopt the resolution regarding the Louisiana Compliance Questionnaire for the City Audit, canvas the returns and declare the results of the special election regarding alcohol sales, adopted a resolution for Municipal Water Pollution Prevention, and agreed to approve the Annual Audit Engagement.
City Council Meetings take place on the first Monday of every month at Minden City Hall starting at 5:30 p.m. The meetings are open for the public to attend.