Last week the Stark County Political Report wrote about the political "hurricane" in the form, of newly selected council president Steve Okey which struck Alliance City Council at its June 2, 2014 meeting.
Okey selected by the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee/Alliance (SCDP-CC/ALLIANCE; Party) on April 30, 2014 to replace the recently deceased long time president of council John Benincasa caused an uproar on the 2nd in his attempt to unilaterally change council procedure on voting on various measure to come before council.
While the SCPR agrees with Okey (a key Stark County "organized" Party Democrat) that his proposed change needs to be made, The Report thinks his primary motive is not as professed. But rather that first and foremost his objective is to be confrontational with Alliance City Council in order to embarrass Repubican Larry Dordea.
What would he want to embarrass Larry Dordea?
Because Dordea is the Republican candidate for Stark County sheriff against Okey political pal George T. Maier who interestingly enough is a Democratic Party appointee as sheriff just like Okey.
Earlier in the year Okey filed a lawsuit against Alliance City Council (which he - before being appointed president by the Dems - was a member of for six years) to stop council members from voting "unsigned" paper ballots on various issues.
The issue he focused on in his lawsuit was the denial on the part of council of the right of his political-joined-at-the-hip pal Derrick Loy (an employee since September, 2013 of George T. Maier) to continue on as a member of the Alliance Water and Sewer Advisory Board.
But when he was appointed council president, he dropped the lawsuit.
Hmm? Some devotion, to principle, no?
Post the Dems appointing Okey as president, the SCPR went on record as predicting that Okey would find ways and means to cast Dordea in a negative light in the proceedings of Alliance City Council.
And the June 2nd meeting is the first of what the SCPR thinks will be standard fare at Alliance City Council meetings.
Contrasted to the SCPR, The Alliance Review wrote an editorial (LINK) about the June 2nd incident in which the editorial board bought into the Okey pretext of his action being all about enhancing democratic procedures in council meetings.
We can't be sure why members are so piqued by individual roll-call votes, but we suspect it may have more to do with their disapproval of Okey in general than with his proposed change.The Report thinks The Review missed "the donkey in the room" (i.e. the political factor) as newspaper editors are wont to do when it comes to identifying reasons for the otherwise inexplicable.
It is disconcerting for the likes of The Review and the SCPR for the likes of a Steve Okey to try to mask "real" motivation with "high-sounding" platitudes. Such tactics further cynicize the general public attitude about the sincerity of public officials when the only plausible explanation boils down to a political one rather than a civic enhancing one.
Fellow Republican councilperson (vis-a-vis Dordea) Julie Jakmides took offense to the The Review's editorial. However, The Report thinks she missed the real point (in an email to the SCPR complaining about The Review editorial) of the Okey June 2nd action every bit as much as The Review editors did.
The SCPR thinks that that her rationalizing is merely "the other side of the coin" from Okey in trying to clothe council's action with the indicia of doing a good thing in substituting a censure of President Okey for rather than having the Sergeant at Arms escort him from council chambers, to wit:
I had no choice but to move for censure. The alternative would have been to have our Sergeant of Arms remove Mr. Okey from the meeting, but my fellow members and I simply wanted to move along and follow the Order of Business.While it may be as the SCPR thinks is the case that Okey started this politicalization of Alliance City Council proceedings, The Report is no more impressed with her response (to be seen in its entirety at the end of this blog) than with Okey's initiative.
The "politiking" needs to stop and to stop now.
Steve Okey should admit the obvious and apologize for what clearly appears to the SCPR to be a politically inspired bringing "the donkey into the room" of Alliance City Council.
The Republicans need to disengage from political self-defense in responding to Okey's out-of-boundedness.
In the end, Alliance City Council should discontinue the practice of voting "unsigned" paper ballots and do roll call votes on each and every vote except, perhaps, assigning proposed legislation to committee.
The Stark County Political Report believes that both the Democratic president and Republicans on council deserve censure with the greater measure going to Mister Okey for starting the politicization in the first place.
President Okey: Keep "the donkey out of the room" when it comes to the proceedings of Alliance City Council!!!
Here is the Jakmides e-mailed letter to the SCPR:
Regarding Okey censure
Sunday, June 8, 2014 9:59 PM
From: "Julie Jakmides" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Below is a copy of a Letter to the Editor I submitted to The Alliance Review, prior to a 500-word-minimum edit. It is nothing more than a response to the newspaper's editorial assertion that my motion to censure was inappropriate.
I would be happy to talk further about the events of last Monday's meeting if you are interested.
Link to original editorial: http://www.the-review.com/local%20opinion/2014/06/05/our-view-no-reason-for-censure
RESPONSE TO “NO REASON FOR CENSURE”
The Editorial Board of The Alliance Review coming to the conclusion there was “no reason” for my motion to censure Council President Steve Okey is clearly the result of not having the entire story.
On a Friday afternoon, members of Alliance City Council received a letter from Mr. Steve Okey giving a directive to Council that “we will” change the way we vote at the next regular meeting. In his letter Mr. Okey explained his logic, but gave no opportunity for Council to consider this a recommendation, instead demanding it would happen. To say it lacked tact would be an understatement.
When Mr. Okey attempted to change our process without any input, I made a Point of Order questioning the necessity given the measures we already take to ensure our votes are known. Mr. Okey responded with terminology that did not seem related to a point of order question, and proceeded a second time to instruct the Clerk of Council to call the roll. At that time I raised my hand again and asked for our legal counsel, Law Director Jennifer Arnold, to give her legal opinion on the matter. She explained that our current course of action is perfectly sufficient. Mr. Okey directed another statement at Councilman Dordea, and myself to which neither of us were sure how to respond, as we are not attorneys. After more back and forth, I reminded Mr. Okey that he said in his letter to Council that everything we have been doing is perfectly fine, but it was his opinion it should be altered. I pointed out the Law Director did not agree with his change, and in fact she specifically stated we should continue our current method of voice votes.
After repeatedly speaking over members of City Council, declaring that City Council would follow his legal interpretation and not that of our Law Director, making demands to the Clerk of Council to call the roll despite obvious disapproval of the entire City Council and the Law Director, and engaging in debate that the President of Council is specifically forbidden from doing, I had no choice but to move for censure.
The alternative would have been to have our Sergeant of Arms remove Mr. Okey from the meeting, but my fellow members and I simply wanted to move along and follow the Order of Business.
After calling for a vote and censure being approved 5-0 with two abstentions, Mr. Okey continued to argue in circles and change his demands for how to appropriately proceed. At one point he stated we would need to change Council Rules, which would require the action and recommendation of a committee. Later he decided we would need to appeal his ‘ruling’ as the chair of the meeting, and somewhere in between he suggested I must amend a prior motion to overrule his unlawful change of Council Rules.
There are three methods by which Mr. Okey and any other interested party may determine how any individual member of Alliance City Council votes.
An audio recording of each meeting exists; it is the primary reason all members speak into microphones.
An audio/video recording exists thanks to Channel 11 and is made available three times each week on television.
Additionally, our observant Clerk of Council Jerry Yost delineates all opposition and abstentions in the minutes of each and every meeting -all matters of public record and easily accessible.
After consulting Council Rules and Roberts Rules of Order, I came to the conclusion that such an addition would be unnecessary and redundant.
The regular meeting of Alliance City Council this past Monday was an embarrassment to the City of Alliance. I did not walk in to the meeting expecting to be forced to censure the President of Council simply to conduct normal business, but we would still be in Council Chambers arguing if I had not. No member of City Council has made any attempt to hide his or her votes. We are proud to represent the people of the City of Alliance and because of that we have an abundance of available resources to allow to public to know exactly how we vote. Clerk of Council Jerry Yost delineating specifics in all Council Minutes goes above and beyond what most bodies do in the interest of transparency.
I am disappointed that the Editorial Board of The Alliance Review has failed to consider the actual events of our last City Council meeting. Rather than questioned on my motion for censure, some who were in attendance for the meeting have commended me for my patience.
I challenge whoever wrote Thursday’s editorial to watch the video and still come to the conclusion that censure of Mr. Okey was not necessary.