Council denies alderwoman’s proposals for ordinance codification
The Eureka Springs City Council spent much of its Aug. 28 meeting discussing how ordinances are codified, with alderwoman Kristi Kendrick leading the discussion.
Kendrick reminded the council of its June 12 meeting, when alderman David Mitchell moved to allocate up to $1,000 to get more recent ordinances placed in the city’s codebook and the council agreed to do so.
“I watched the city council meeting online to confirm the substance of that motion,” Kendrick said. “Instead, the June 12, 2017 minutes read, ‘a timeline for the budget.’ Such description of Mr. Mitchell’s motion really makes no sense.”
Since the motion was approved, Kendrick said, city clerk Ann Armstrong has failed to update the council on how the codification process is going. Kendrick moved that the city code be brought up to current date by Armstrong by Oct. 21, that $1,000 be allocated from account number 08-10-5571 for the purpose of said updates and that Armstrong report to the council on Sept. 11 and Oct. 9 about her process in updating the city code. Mitchell seconded the motion, saying he had some questions.
“I’m going to have to ask the city clerk,” Mitchell said. “Is this … are all codification of city ordinances up to date?”
“No,” Armstrong said.
Some of the ordinances are codified, Armstrong said, but not all of them. She said there are roughly six ordinances left to get in the codebook. Mitchell asked if the $1,000 in Kendrick’s motion would help Armstrong complete the codification, and Mayor Butch Berry said he thought the council already took care of that on June 12.
“The motion said … it was very unclear in the minutes,” Kendrick said.
Armstrong said she could update the council right then, and Berry asked her to do so. When she got the nod to proceed with the codification from the council, Armstrong said, she asked representatives at the Arkansas Municipal League how soon it would be until the codification could be complete. She was told that it wouldn’t take that long, Armstrong said, so she sent information out.
“What came back … I’m so glad I didn’t send the whole thing, because it had to be reworked again and sent back again,” Armstrong said. “We worked out a system that will allow future updates to go much more smoothly. It took a lot of back and forth.”
She continued, “It’s not a mechanical process. Humans are involved. Interpretation is involved. I have a standard in mind, and they were cooperative in adjusting to what I was asking for. In the future, I anticipate things will be much smoother.”
It wouldn’t be easy for her to get everything codified by a specific date, Armstrong said, because that would depend on several factors.
“I can’t say what the people in Little Rock will do or not do or where we are in the line, but I’m happy to keep working on it,” Armstrong said.
Kendrick asked how the code in the codebooks relates to the code that is posted online, and Armstrong said the city works with separate groups to get the code out on the two mediums. Mitchell said he didn’t want to give Armstrong a deadline to get everything codified, saying he understands that the process of codification is just that.
“It’s a process,” Mitchell said.
Armstrong said she’s open to updating the council on how the codification is going whenever asked. It doesn’t require a motion, Armstrong said, for her to report to the council.
“I was just wondering why it wasn’t until I put this on the agenda that we received such a report,” Kendrick said.
“I will say again what I have seen repeatedly. Any time you would like to have the answer to any question relating to the job, you are welcome to call and ask or email,” Armstrong said. “I am happy to answer it. I’m happy to do my job without being strong-armed. Just ask. Just ask.”
“I wanted the answer not just for myself but for city council and for the citizens of Eureka Springs,” Kendrick said.
Alderwoman Peg Adamson thanked Armstrong for her work on the city code.
“I think it’s good to talk about the code. We’ve got this now. This is great,” Adamson said. “The city clerk and recorder is doing a wonderful job.”
Adamson said she wasn’t sure the council needed to have a motion for Armstrong to work on the codification, and Kendrick amended her motion to remove the section saying the code must be up to date by Oct. 21. Alderman Bob Thomas recalled when city attorney Tim Weaver said elected officials can’t tell another elected official how to do their job.
“This could be rewritten as a request,” Thomas said.
“You really can’t tell them how to do their job,” Weaver said.
Mitchell said the council could just approve the part of the motion allocating the $1,000 for codifying ordinances, and Weaver said the council already did that on June 12. Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said she wasn’t sure why the council was discussing the topic again.
“We have already allocated the money and as elected people, we cannot tell an elected person how to do something, so doesn’t that make all this null and void?” Schneider asked.
“I’m not sure it has a purpose, but I’m not getting into that because I’m not one of the six that votes on it,” Weaver said. “If you feel it’s necessary, you can vote for it. I don’t really have a legal opinion on it.”
The council voted, with Kendrick voting in favor of her motion and Mitchell, Schneider, Thomas, Adamson and Terry McClung voting against it. Berry said it was time to move on to the next item on the agenda, but Kendrick said she had another motion. She moved to establish a committee to investigate alternatives to the electronic posting of the city code that would save the city money and allow the city to make real-time changes to the code online.
“I was very surprised to hear that the reason our city code had not been updated for so many years was reasons of cost restraints,” Kendrick said. “It seems so easy nowadays to post things online that I would like a committee to look at the possibility that maybe we could post our city code online for free and also have the ability to make sure that it is constantly current.”
McClung asked if the city would still have to go through the Arkansas Municipal League, and Berry said everything in the codebook would go through that organization.
“Right now, I’m not talking about analyzing the whole process right here at the table,” Kendrick said. “All I’m suggesting is a committee be established to investigate alternatives. I’m sure a committee would look into the role the municipal league would play in this process.”
Adamson said the proposed committee could hinder Armstrong from doing her job.
“Would that committee then be telling the clerk how to do her job?” Adamson said. “If that is the case, we can’t do it.”
Mitchell said he wasn’t sure about establishing a committee, either.
“Well, it goes online and it’s an ordinance. If there’s a difference in the codification and the ordinance, the ordinance stands, so the ordinance becomes the biggest document,” Mitchell said. “I’m not buying off on the committee. I’m having problems.”
The council voted on the motion, with Kendrick voting in favor of it and Mitchell, Schneider, Thomas, Adamson and McClung voting against it.