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Pirtle urges patience with policy changes
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McMinnville officials considered setting public notice and procedure requirements at their meeting last week. The policy includes a seven-day notice to the public about meetings.
City attorney Tim Pirtle warned officials to use caution in making any quick decisions on the measure.
“This is the first chance I’ve had to review them,” said Pirtle. “It might be wise to hold off on approval until you have had the chance to digest them.”
Specifically, Pirtle warned against setting a strict policy and not adhering to it.
“You are absolutely empowered to set standard operating procedures for this body, but remember the case law is largely undefined, unless you define it,” said Pirtle. “This will define it for purposes of public notice. You need to do it with deliberation and careful planning.”
Currently, state law requires adequate public notice about committee and board meetings. If officials set in writing the public notice is seven days, they will have to adhere to it or be in violation of their own policy.
Also under consideration is a policy to allow emergency items to bypass committees and be taken to the full board immediately, those being “spending of city funds not budgeted in the current fiscal year budget for economic development where there are time constraints for grants, loans, state notifications” and “any other emergency that requires the full board’s immediate action.”
Pirtle recommended striking that policy because the law allows for special called meetings in emergency situations.
“You’re already governed by a rule that allows for special called meetings and the circumstances for those special called meetings are not restricted, other than being urgent,” Pirtle said. “I would suggest that you strike No. 5 and rely on special meeting criteria instead of limiting it to something you think about now but may not think about until later.”
Meetings of the board can be called by the mayor with as little as 24-hour public notice to address any situation considered to be an emergency as part of state’s standard code for municipalities.
Also under consideration is allowing requests from nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations to be heard in committee and by the board in the same night. The request must be an annual routine request where no funds are requested other than normal setup expenses.
Measures heard in committee that have to wait two weeks before being considered by the board include “the spending of funds not budgeted in the current fiscal year budget, and where there are no time constraints for grant, loan, or other deadlines that could cause cancellation of the project.”
Vice Mayor Ben Newman suggested they take time to look the list over before making a decision.
“Since this is the first time we’ve discussed this, I don’t think it would be a bad idea to table it,” Newman said. “Now that we have this, we need time to talk about it a little bit. We can set a policy when we have time to sleep on it.”
The discussion was tabled until May 14.