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Differing opinions at Stockbridge City Council meeting

 

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  Judging by various statements at a called meeting of the Stockbridge City Council in late December, it appears that there are differing opinions regarding what the council members should be addressing in the final weeks before a new mayor and two new council members are sworn in.

  Mayor Mark Alarcon, presiding over his final meeting before leaving office, made a statement to that effect just before the council approved the 2014 meeting schedule.

  “We are elected to four-year terms,” said Alarcon, who pointed out that there were some objections to waiting until Jan. 13 to swear in the new elected officials. “The term ‘lame duck’ does not bother me.”

  Alarcon said after the meeting that he was committed to serving the full amount of his term and that the city’s business could not stop simply because a new mayor was coming on board soon.

  Mayor-elect Tim Thompson, during the public comment period at the end of the Dec. 20 meeting, said that he had requested the first meeting be set for Jan. 2 and Alarcon had told him personally he had no problem with that.

  “The facts are the facts,” said Thompson. “I hope that during my administration, I can bring proper communication, honesty and ethical behavior to this community that we live in.”

  Alarcon did not respond to Thompson’s statement at the meeting.

  During his previous comments, Alarcon said that the charter has specific direction regarding the first meeting of the new year, and he also cited code sections on the subject.

  “The city has been doing the same thing since 1971,” he said. “I’m not going to change it. If it needs to be changed, they can change it when they get into office.”

  The meeting schedule was approved 4-1, with council member Alphonso Thomas in opposition. Thomas was the lone vote of dissent on a majority of the agenda items at the meeting.

  Another sticking point was the appointments made to the city’s Board of Ethics. Alarcon noted that one of the three slots is solely a mayoral appointment, another is a council appointment, and the third is a mayoral appointment with council approval.

  Alarcon presented a slate of candidates for appointment – Tyrone Anderson, Karen Charmaine and Kathy Gilbert – and a motion was made for their approval. When Alarcon asked for council discussion, Thompson spoke up from the audience but was told he was out of order and could speak at the end of the meeting during the regular public comment time.

  Thomas then spoke, asking why there had been no discussion of the person who was supposed to be the council’s nominee. “How can you do that?” he asked Alarcon, who did not reply but called for the vote, which passed 4-1.

  Later that evening, Thompson said that he and Alarcon had spoken by phone just three days earlier, at which time Alarcon assured him he would not move forward with the appointments. “I just wanted that on the record,” he said. Alarcon did not respond to Thompson’s allegation.

  Lee Stuart spoke on the issue, identifying himself by saying, “I’m the last officially elected mayor of the city.” He accused the council of picking “cronies” from one board to another, and called them “the most unethical people this city has ever seen.”

  After saying that 85 percent of the voters had spoken out against them, Stuart leaned forward and pointed, saying, “You two…” Alarcon stopped him right then, dismissing him from resorting to personal attacks.

  Stuart made another comment away from the microphone, prompting Alarcon to direct the police officers on duty to escort Stuart from the meeting because he threatened him. The officers did not do so, saying they did not perceive a threat from what Stuart said.

  The council spent about two hours of the meeting time in executive session to discuss a possible real estate acquisition but did not take official action when they reconvened in public session. An intergovernmental agreement with the Downtown Development Authority was approved 4-1 after executive session.

  Thompson called this move “a real doozy” in his public comments.

  “Since the election of Nov. 5, this administration has obligated the city to more than $26 million in taxpayer funds,” he said, reminding the audience that he campaigned on fiscal responsibility. “This is public record. You guys are going to have to account for that.”

  Thompson said he knew about the initiative in advance only because “a source” had provided him the information. He alleged that he had been promised to receive e-mail copies of everything the council was considering since the election, and councilwoman-elect Lakeisha Gantt said the same thing.

  Alarcon said after the meeting he had been advised by legal counsel that certain things could not be shared with the incoming council until they had been officially sworn in.

 

 

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