Proposal to require board OK for committees sparks debate

Webb proposes compromise to Haggerty-authored measure

By Mike Anthony

Sunset Hills Mayor Bill Nolan and four former mayors oppose a proposed ordinance that would require the mayor to obtain aldermanic approval before establishing special committees.

A first reading of the proposed ordinance, authored by Ward 2 Alderman Scott Haggerty and supported by a majority of aldermen, was conducted last week.

The proposed ordinance would be an addition to an existing ordinance regarding the mayor’s authority and states, “The mayor, with the consent and approval of a majority of the members of the Board of Aldermen, may also establish committees, boards, commissions and/or any other advisory board in addition to those specifically delineated in the Code of Ordinances.”

A second reading of the measure is slated when the Board of Aldermen meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 13, at City Hall, 3939 S. Lindbergh Blvd.

Opponents of the proposal note the mayor has had the ability to appoint special committees since the city’s inception. They say the measure would encroach on the mayor’s executive authority and curtail citizen involvement on special committees.

Proponents, including Ward 4 Alderman Claudia Svoboda, say the proposal is designed to “help the community.”

During a period for public comment at the Feb. 28 meeting, several residents, including some who have served on committees established by Nolan, voiced their opposition to the proposed ordinance.

Some who have served on Nolan-appointed committees said they would not do so again if the ordinance is approved by the Board of Aldermen.

Resident Kermit Starnes said he did not support the measure and read excerpts of letters from four former mayors — John Hunzeker, Jim Hobbs, Kenneth Vogel and Nancy Benson — who oppose the proposal.

Among others voicing opposition to the proposed ordinance were residents Nick Dragan, Jeff Sanders and Bill Behrens.

Resident Tom Musich indicated his support for the proposed ordinance, comparing it to checks and balances as outlined in the U.S. Constitution “so no one branch of government would overpower or outweigh another … If that model served our Founding Fathers well, I believe that model would also serve Sunset Hills …”

Ward 3 Alderman Stephen Webb said, “… I don’t have the background and history and wasn’t involved in the drafting of the ordinance. I think there were six individuals who had more knowledge about it prior to Friday than I did …”

While he agrees with the premise of the mayor keeping the board informed, Webb said, “… Does it really need to be an ordinance? I wouldn’t lean in that direction. I don’t think it’s necessary.”

Webb said he made a slight revision to the “wording that Alderman Haggerty had authored.”

“Now the revision isn’t agreeable to either side, based upon the inputs that I’ve received today, or lack thereof,” he said. “But the revision in and of itself, requires that the mayor provide advance notice to the Board of Aldermen — not approval. It satisfies what I understood to be the biggest concern in terms of communication …”

Nolan said he first became involved with the city after being appointed to a special committee by Vogel in 1993. He then listed the special committees he has established since he was mayor, including the Revenue Review Committee. That committee’s work earlier was deemed “unacceptable” by Ward 2 Alderman Thomas Hrastich.

Nolan said, “… The object of this particular motion, OK, was the decision after discussing our tax structures that we have not looked at, how our utility taxes and other taxes that were passed in 1994 have changed or should be changed …”

Svoboda interjected, “No, it was not.”

Nolan said, “That was my purpose.”

Svoboda said, “It was not the purpose of this proposed ordinance. We want to know what’s going on before someone else tells us or we read it in the Horizon or we read the other press or see it on the …”

Nolan interjected, “… I have never received a phone call from a member of this board recommending that I do that, and let me say that in all humility, I apologize. I would be more than happy to send the electronic media that Alderman Hrastich mentions out, telling you or advising you that I have desire to do this and I intend to appoint this committee and even to the point of who I’m going to appoint to this committee. And I would be happy to do that at the first moment …”

Svoboda interjected, “Then why’s it an issue with this? Why become the center of it?”

Nolan said, “Hmm?”

She continued, “Why become the center of it? There was a flurry of nasty and ugly responses to something that is only here to help the community …”

Nolan replied, “Well, I hardly agree, obviously, and as I said earlier, all the prior mayors had this authority.”

Svoboda said, “I’m not taking that authority away from you …”

Nolan said, “… If I am required to attempt to turn to the Board of Aldermen for an approval every time that the city needs something done in the form of citizen involvement for citizen committees, you are removing authority from the mayor …”

Svoboda interjected, “Why are you so insecure? You are running unopposed.”

To Starnes, Svoboda later said, “… I apologize if I have been rude and abrupt, but sometimes you don’t get a say unless you interrupt, and I’m not pointing at you as the person solely that I’ve interrupted. I’ve also interrupted the mayor. But I just simply feel that everything that we intended has been turned into evil.”

Starnes said, “I don’t see it as evil. What I see it is, is an attempt to usurp authority.”

Svoboda continued, “And I think it’s an overextension of executive authority when they fail to keep us informed and when I have to read the newsletter to find out how aggravated he (Nolan) is with us.”

Starnes said, “… You’re upset because you weren’t informed. The mayor, I guess we can read it back to you, has said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t inform you …'”

“I heard,” Svoboda said.

Starnes said, “… Let me finish, OK? He has also said that in the future he’d never do it again and Steve (Webb) has offered an actual revision that will require him to do that … So therefore, you’ve been fulfilled, but that’s not good enough. You want to be punitive and take his authority away from him. That is not going to fly, Claudia. It’s not going to fly. You’ve won … He’s apologized. He has agreed that it will not happen again. You have an ordinance that will take care of it. You won. Why do you want more? You are wanting to take away authority …”

Svoboda said, “I want to be heard.”

Starnes said, “I think you were just heard. I think that you were heard because he told you he’s sorry, so he heard you, and you were heard by Stephen because he said I’m (going to ensure) it never happens again. So you were heard …”