Town of Greenville: Greenville Town Council Seat finally vacated
As published by Madison County Carrier (10/19/2017)
It took several months and the legal advice and opinions of several attorneys and judges, but members of the Greenville Town Council who had been adamant about Kovacherich Arnold holding onto his seat on the Greenville Town Council have finally conceded that the seat is vacant. This came after newly hired Town Attorney John Reid informed the Council that after he had consulted many attorneys, judges, etc. the seat formerly occupied by Arnold had been vacated due to excessive absences. This is based on a literal reading of the Greenville Town Charter that states that any Council member who is absent from three regular or special Council meetings within a 12-month period, without having those absences excused, has vacated his/her seat. “Based on a plain reading of the charter, the [Arnold's] seat is vacant,” said Reid. Reid did state that, in his opinion, the wording of the Charter is vague and does not state what constitutes an excused absence. “The seat is vacant because of a lack of procedure put in place by this board,” said Reid. The charter also does not specify a process by which absences would be excused. Moving forward, Reid offered to draft some policies to address these issues to present to the Council. This may help avoid some confusion in the future; but for now, the seat is vacated. “The ship has sailed, as unfortunate as that may seem,” added Reid.
This is not the first attorney who has come to that conclusion. Previous Town Attorney Clay Schnitker also informed the Council that the seat previously held by Arnold had been vacated, based on the town charter and the number of absences Arnold had accumulated. Other attorneys have addressed the Town Council and have told them the same thing. Arnold, along with Mayor Calvin Malone and Vice-mayor Brandi Seabrooks had insisted that Arnold still held the seat, despite the wording of the charter and the number of absences accumulated by Arnold. After Reid stated several times that Arnold's seat had, indeed been vacated, Mayor Malone asked again, “So you're saying [Mr.] Arnold's seat is vacant, according to your opinion?”
“Yes,” said Reid.
One citizen at the meeting raised the question of members attending meetings by phone. Reid stated that even though the practice was not directly addressed in the town charter, it has become standard practice in many cases that participation via phone, skype, etc. had become an accepted practice. Based on the fact that the charter does not address attending meetings via phone, the citizen stated that Council Member Joi Collins' seat should also be vacated because she had missed more than three meetings in a 12-month period. Some of those meetings had been joined by Collins via phone. Collins stated that she would vacate her seat if called upon to do so, but only if Arnold stepped down first. Mayor Malone then admitted to having several absences. Discussions became heated until finally, Collins stood up, left the table and took her seat in the audience. Arnold and Malone followed, leaving only Seabrooks and Dansey remaining at the table. At this point another citizen stated, “Now we don't have a quorum, so we might as well go home.”
Reid then stepped in. “Mr. Malone's seat is not vacant. Ms. Collins' seat is not vacant,” said Reid.
It was decided that a workshop would be held one hour before the next regular meeting in order to discuss and consider policies and procedures that might clarify some of the vagueness that exists in the Town Charter in terms of absences and meeting attendance.
Another item of business addressed by the Council was the contract for the prospective new Town Manager. The prospective Manager had asked if a couple of amendments could be made to the contract. First of all, he requested to be paid weekly, rather than monthly. Other Town employees are paid on a weekly basis, so this could be easier for the Town. Secondly, the prospect asked for up to $250 per month for expenses. Any amount over $250 would require Council approval. These amendments were approved and the Town Manager's Contract was approved, as amended.
The next regular meeting of the Greenville Town Council will be held on Monday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, located at 154 SW Old Mission Ave., in Greenville. A workshop meeting will be held at 5 p.m.
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