By Tom Travis
City Council president Monica Galloway (7th Ward) expressed concern and “outrage” Thursday at how City Council Finance Committee Chair Kate Fields (4th Ward) led a Tuesday budget session.
Galloway’s remarks came in a phone interview requested by EVM in follow-up to Fields’ actions during a Zoom session for council members and comments Fields made afterward to EVM. In that followup, Fields explained why she muted Galloway and Councilperson Eric Mays (1st Ward) and then removed them.
In EVM’s article yesterday Fields said in her view the parameters of the Council’s Tuesday budget session were more in line of a “hearing” or “session” and not an actual City Council meeting. Fields contended that because of that “there were no rules.”
Tueday’s incident was triggered by Councilperson Mays immediately making a point of order at the beginning of the telephonic/video session. Fields cut him off, saying there are no “points of order” because there are no rules for that type of session.
On Thursday, Galloway explained to EVM that she was “merely supporting” her colleague Mays’ attempt to make a point of order. In Tuesday’s session Fields went on to explain the session’s format to the city council, city administration, public and press that were listening.
In Tuesday’s meeting Fields directed staff to mute both Galloway and Mays’ phone calls. Neither Galloway nor Mays were allowed to participate in the remainder of the session which lasted an hour and a half. Galloway said she listened to the rest of the meeting on her phone.
Galloway explained in her phone call to EVM that she believed Fields’ actions were “illegal” yet did not explain specifics. Galloway said she is concerned about where Fields obtained her authority to run Tuesday’s session. She pointed out that Fields said, “there are no rules” but made rules up as the meeting proceeded.
Galloway pointed out that during the session Councilperson Allan Griggs (8th Ward) made comments about street lighting. Fields then allowed for a referral to be made. Galloway insisted that “a referral is a rule” so Fields “made a rule” in a session that had no rules. Galloway pointed out that Fields herself said, “we don’t really have a way to make referrals in this format” but asked City Attorney Angela Wheeler to allow this as a referral.
Galloway said she was concerned that six of her council colleagues allowed such a session on Tuesday to continue with no rules and no format for council members to gain the floor to make comments. Galloway said she believed Fields made herself the “authority of rule” for the session and that it was an undemocratic process.
Asked how she intends to proceed with challenging Fields’ actions at Tuesday’s session, Galloway said she did not know but is “trying to process the whole thing.” The City Council has a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, May 26. The Zoom incident last Tuesday will likely come up as a discussion topic as the council attempts to move the budget forward. According to the city charter a budget must be adopted and passed by June 1st.
EVM Assistant Editor and City Beat reporter Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com.