DESOTO – The DeSoto City Council took over 20 minutes at DeSoto’s council meeting Tuesday to decide whether to approve or not to approve 25 regular and special meeting minutes that went back as far as March 2021 up to November 2023.
Place 2 Pierette Parker had the 25 items on the consent agenda pulled for discussion, saying, “The reason I pulled the minutes is that there are corrections that need to be made; there are errors. Earlier in our communication about this, it was said this is an uncomfortable time. I hate to say it, but being uncomfortable sometimes is necessary for us to get to where we need to be. I want to make sure I caution the council that when we are talking about the minutes, the minutes are an official record of the board or council’s actions. We are actually approving minutes that have corrections that are needed. I believe they need to be removed so they can be reviewed and should be reviewed at least twice before they come before the council.”
Parker cited the importance of transparency, adding, “It helps when people can pull minutes and understand what took place at a city council meeting, and if I have to stand alone on that, I will stand alone on that, but I will continue to say that minutes should be cohesive, they should be concise and when there are errors they need to be corrected.”
Place 6 Crystal Chism identified herself as the councilmember who said it was uncomfortable, stating, “It is uncomfortable because we have five, four, three employees, and after managing people for 15 years, I think you become a little bit human in the respect of (not needing to coach and develop on a dais). Those things can happen outside of meetings like this. I agree these minutes need to be correct for anyone viewing. I equally agree that they need to be consistent. I am asking that we don’t continue to antagonize our city secretary during our meetings regarding it. We are open to having meetings with any of our employees at any time that we would like to and if there is a standard way that we have never established. If there is a standard way that we want this to happen, then let’s do it outside this dais and get it right so that the efforts that are going into making this continue to happen. We are also not saying how the city secretary’s office has not had staffing … properly staffed since I have been on this council. She has not had the staffing she needed for almost three years. We need to have this conversation, yes, but there needs to be a balance, and we need to offer some grace and probably just come out of this meeting so it doesn’t look like we are grandstanding or trying to put the city secretary’s office on Front Street.”
After Chism’s comment, Place 5, Dinah Marks added, “I do agree if there are corrections that need to be made. I also think if there is a certain way, and all minutes will be different because all subjects are different, but a lot of them are the same. Someone mentioned creating a template, and I think at this point, what needs to happen is that since some of us have concerns about what is on the minutes and how it is written, maybe we could create that ad hoc committee. As far as what we have before us, we can pull it and make the corrections, but as we move forward, to make sure we have something in place so that she can have a guideline as to what to follow so we won’t have to keep spinning our wheels on this particular item.”
Marks then motioned to remove the minutes from the consent agenda, create the ad hoc committee, make the corrections, and bring it back. She added she specifically saw a mistake because she was listed as absent, but she was absent only when the roll was called. She came in later and was at the rest of the meeting.
Mayor Rachel Proctor added, “I am personally not in favor of micromanaging staff. In terms of this, I sit on numerous boards and have sat on this council since 2013. Anytime there have been corrections on any boards I have sat on, minutes can still be approved, noting the corrections that need to be made. I will be voting against that.”
Proctor said the council knew the issue with the minutes at the beginning of the year, and there was a plan. She called councilmember Parker on joining the council after that plan, stating, “We were already aware we would be receiving minutes technically and irregularly throughout the year to get everything caught up and that there are systems that are in place; we have not been willy nilly with minutes in the history of our city. I don’t want to give the appearance to anyone that this is something we have not been on top of…”
Marks agreed she did not want to micromanage anyone, but she added she had suggested working this out in the work session, and she said, “What I see is we just need to get a handle on what it looks like moving forward.”
DeSoto City Secretary Alicia Thomas stated that all the corrections given to her had been corrected before the meeting.
At this point, Place 3 Nicole Raphiel asked the city attorney if the packet’s minutes had the corrections made. Did they need to be read to confirm the corrections before a vote to approve?
City Attorney Joe Gorfida said, “If you have a copy with the corrections, it is appropriate to say you approve the minutes as corrected.”
There were several motions made that failed before the final one was approved.
The original motion by Marks to pull the incorrect minutes so corrections could be made was a yes by Marks, Raphiel, Parker, and Place 4 Andre Byrd.
The second was to approve with Byrd changing his vote since it was noted the minutes in the packet had been corrected.
Then Raphiel motioned to approve the minutes that had been “amended correctly.”
Parker made a point of order and said, “You said amended correctly, but you don’t have all the minutes in front of you; how do you know they have been amended? I really don’t want people to make this about who is sitting in the seat. I am talking about the purpose of the minutes, which is to be concise. This is not about micromanaging. Otherwise, they would not be on the agenda for us to approve. If we have not read them and we approve them, and a citizen asks us about the minutes, you have to go through that whole rigamarole of trying to make light of minutes that you say are important enough to have a vote. If they have an importance to have a vote, they have an importance to be correct. So, I still say you don’t have the amended minutes in front of you unless everyone does, and I don’t.”
Proctor said, “In my opinion, that is the usage of the word amended. What we are approving is with the noted corrections.
Another motion was made to approve the minutes that had been corrected with the noted corrections. Only Parker and Marks voted against this motion, so the motion passed.
Another item from the consent agenda that Parker had pulled ended up passing unanimously to authorize the City Manager to negotiate and execute an amendment to the Granicus Service Agreement to upgrade the audio/video broadcast system, including the closed captioning of public meetings in English and Spanish languages for discussion.
An item passed from the consent agenda to reject the low-bid submission from MX Construction Services and to negotiate and execute a construction contract with Gracon Construction, Inc., the second-lowest bidder, for $328,100 for the installation of a 54-inch isolation valve for the Westmoreland Pump Station.
Two public hearings passed – the first in a 5 – 2 vote with Marks and Mayor Pro Tem Letitia Hughes voting no for a Specific Use Permit to establish and operate a “Used Auto Sales” lot at 1209 Lyndon Avenue.
The second public hearing passed unanimously for a Specific Use Permit for a restaurant with a drive-through currently zoned General Retail at 800 Hampton Road.
The first regular agenda item is for a Chapter 380 Agreement with Noble Realty for the waiver of water, sewer, and roadway impact fees for $137,500, also authorizing the Economic Development Director to negotiate and execute an Infrastructure Grant for $137,500 as approved by the DeSoto Development Corporation’s Board of Directors. This passed, with Marks and Raphiel voting against it.
The final item to develop an employee policy for Standby Pay related to non-exempt employees serving in on-call capacities after regular business hours and approving an FY 2024 Budget Amendment for $100,681.50 to fund Standby Pay did not pass as presented. Parker asked if the employees were told they would be on call when they were hired. It was revealed they were told they would be on call but that these are entry-level positions, and while they did get an increase, due to inflation, they do not get certification pay and foreign language pay; they only get paid if they get called back into work.
Only Bryd, Hughes, and Proctor voted yes on this item as presented, and the motion did not pass.