OGDENSBURG — After an amendment from Councilor Nichole L. Kennedy was defeated, 4-3, a resolution to establish working rules between the City Council and the city attorney was passed, 4-3.
City Council has been fighting over access to the city attorney for most of the year and the resolution passed Monday does not address the main problem the three councilors on the losing side of the argument have had.
Ms. Kennedy and Councilors Michael B. Powers and Daniel E. Skamperle claim to have been blocked from seeking advice from the city attorney by a rule that says a majority of councilors is needed to approach the attorney.
The resolution passed Monday says, “Should a Councillor require legal advice from the City Attorney in regard to City business, the Councilor may request such opinion or advice as long as the member of the Council has a consensus from at least 3 other members. Consensus can be achieved by any reasonable means.”
The resolution also states that any legal opinions given will be shared, “as soon as is reasonably possible, provided however that such legal opinion shall only be shared in Executive Session.”
“I don’t think this is transparent at all,” Mr. Skamperle said. “I don’t understand why everything has to be in executive session.”
Mr. Powers pointed out that the resolution doesn’t change anything and is not what Attorney Scott Goldie asked for when he spoke to council two weeks ago, seeking guidance.
“And my other concern is, does this violate open meeting laws because you have to have four councilors meet?” Mr. Skamperle said.
“The transparency level doesn’t exist,” Mr. Powers said. “But, if this is how you want to roll, have at it.”
Mayor Jeffery Skelly said that the resolution gives the City Attorney what he wanted.
“All information will be given to everyone,” Mr. Skelly said.
“Either you are going to vote for secrecy or transparency and I am going to vote no on secrecy,” Mr. Skamperle said.
Deputy Mayor John Rishe disagreed with Mr. Skamperle’s characterization of the resolution.
“It’s very transparent, by putting in the resolution that everything will be shared,” Mr. Rishe said.
Ms. Kennedy said she does not have the opportunity that Mr. Rishe, Mr. Skelly and councilors William B. Dillabough and Steven M. Fisher have to seek answers from the attorney because she has never gotten a fourth councilor to agree with her.
“Why does it have to be four?” she asked.
Mr. Skelly suggested that Ms. Kennedy never gets the fourth councilor because she doesn’t talk with them and instead sends emails.
“You’ve never called one of us,” Mr. Skelly said.
“I prefer to put things in writing,” Ms. Kennedy said.
Mr. Skamperle seconded Ms. Kennedy’s amendment to change the requirement to three councilors and it was defeated with Mr. Skelly, Mr. Rishe, Mr. Dillabough and Mr. Fisher voting against it.
The original resolution then passed with the same vote.