Friday, March 1, 2013


The SCPR wrote a blog on Tuesday of this week (LINK) on the matter of Canton City Council rejecting a number of proposed rule changes to the rules of council in the form of an informal resolution.

The focus of the blog was on two particular changes that several of the six councilpersons who voted "no" on the proposed changes cited to The Report as being objectionable, to wit:

The Report characterized the submitting of the rule changes for council's consideration as being "slip[ped] through" and that the consequential "no" vote was predictable and therefore a "dumb" move by leadership and indicative of that the council members not playing with a full deck in terms of the wisdom of such a move.

Since the original blog was published new information has surfaced.

As as the SCPR always does when new matter comes to yours truly's attention, space is made available for information that may be contrary to The Report's take on a given topic.

In the light of member Mary Cirelli (one of the "no" votes) sending the SCPR (without comment) a copy of an e-mail sent out by Clerk of Council Cynthia Timberlake Tuesday (about 10:30 a.m.), The Report is thinking, perhaps, that the characterizations ("slip[ed] through," "dumb," "not playing with a full deck") are subject to being re-evaluation.

Timberlake's letter:
Members of Council,

As Clerk of Council I wanted to receive clarification and a better understanding of why my requests for Rule changes to Rule 1, Section B, Rule 22, Section B, Rule 28, Section A, Rule 29 and Rule 44, Section F were defeated.  (emphasis added by SCPR).

Rule 1, Section B needed changed so I could provide notification via email
Rule 22, Section B, Rule 28, Section A, Rule 29 all relate to referrals - since the untimely death of President Denczak in 2006 I have been doing referrals.  When newly elected Council President Schulman joined City Council I approached him as to the duty and responsibility of the Presiding Officer performing the task of referrals.  He requested that I take on that responsibility which I did and have continued to do so.

Upon my arrival in City Council I was provided a referral spreadsheet that was used as a guide by former President Denczak and that is what I use.  I have attached the spreadsheet for your review.  On Monday mornings I sit down with Council staff and review the agenda and we designate the referrals.

I did not feel I made any unreasonable requests to update Council rules.  I just wanted the Council rules brought up to date and to reflect what is actually occurring.  I am highly offended if anyone else feels I did this for any other reason.

What really disappoints me is that in committee each rule was reviewed and not one question was asked.  I would have been more than happy to answer any questions.  Why didn't anyone ask any questions or ask for amendments?  I thought these were routine rule changes.  Is there no respect for protocol?

If anyone wants to break the code of silence I would really appreciate an answer as to why the Council rules I suggested were defeated.

The SCPR learned late last week that the informal resolution was forthcoming and that objecting members on council planned upon turning the proposed changes down without the usual dialogue - at their initiative - that usuallly takes place among council members when there are questions about the proposed legislation.

The resolution was presented at the majority leader's initiative.

So why didn't he explain to council why he was presenting the changes (e.g. Clerk Timberlake requested these changes)?  An advocate of anything, does has the burden of justifying same, no?

Not to belabor the SCPR original points, but:
  • wasn't this "dumb" leadership on Dougherty's part in not communicating with "all" of council the need and basis for the changes?
  • wasn't it unreal for  the rest of the "yes" votes not to chime in with justification for the changes thereby quashing the notion that they were not playing with a full deck in thinking that their fellows (who were not in on the formulation of the changes) would vote for the changes unquestioned?
On the other side of the fence and more specifically, why did the objecting members do what they did in voting down the resolution with nary a word nor question?

Was it political comeuppance?  Or was it because of differences of opinion as to the efficacy of the proposed changes and no amount of discussion was going to change their minds?

After the meeting, the SCPR did interview member (to see video click on this LINK) and council president Allen Schulman (D-Canton, who had no vote on the matter, but did have an opinion).

He indicated in the interview to The Report that:
  • he wanted to preserve the prerogatives of the council president not only for himself but for future council presidents, and, 
  • he hastened to add, that he thought the council majority leader (Dougherty - D-6) and the members of the rules committee had pure motives in presenting the proposed changes.
Councilman Hawk (D-1) told the SCPR yesterday in a telephone conversation he voted "no" because the changes were not needed and that motivation or lack of motivation for offering them had nothing to do with his vote.

Councilman Edmund Mack (D-8) had this reaction on Tuesday (via e-mail):
I voted against the proposed rule change for a very simple reason: to preserve our system of checks and balances. 
I am sure there are many motivations behind the proposed change, and I have no doubt the motivations are well-intended.
But as an attorney, I look to the plain language of the text of the proposed change.  And a consequence of this rule change, while maybe unintended, would be to concentrate decision-making in the position of Majority Leader, and take it away from the Council President.  It does not matter who currently holds those positions; rather, this is a decision that could affect our Council 20 years from now as much as it would today.  In my view, checks and balances are important at all levels of government, including Canton City Council.

Undoubtedly, some of my fellow Councilpersons may express the view that this change was intended to make our rules conform to current practice.  I respect this view.  However, in my opinion, if our conduct is not complying with the rules, we should change our conduct – not the rules themselves.
Here is what Councilman Mariol (D-7) had to say to The Report yesterday:
I still stand by my vote [in light of the Timberlake e-mail]. 

Upon reviewing the rule changes it became apparent that many of the rule changes took away many duties of the President of Council, and I oppose this because  I believe in a balance of power in Council. 

I also had objections to the idea of presenting legislation to the Majority Leader and Committee Chairmen's before it goes on our agenda.  This inhibits myself and my fellow Councilmen of addressing our constituents issue's in a timely basis and implies that we must get an ok from someone else other then those we represent before submitting ordinances. 

While these rules were done in good faith I do not believe they promoted a balance of power and control on Council or made it easier for Council to address the issue's facing Canton and for those reasons I voted no and stand by that vote. 
Our clerk of Council (Cynthia Timberlake) and the whole staff that works in the Council office are some of the best people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. They truly are the reason why things get done. 
The city of Canton is a better place because of them.  From time to time council has its disagreements but one thing we all agree on is that we are lucky to get to work with such a fantastic Council office staff.
Councilman Fisher (D-5):
... I have absolutely zero interest in stripping any powers awy from the President of Council.
Back when I was sitting in the front row of council meetings, I would see each term a little more of the power would be taken away from Ray Denczak and each time it would make the position of Majority Leader a little more powerful. It is not a positive thing for Canton to have more and more power in fewer and fewer hands...

Beyond the rule changes themselves, most of which were fine in my opinion, there was a serious issue of the manner in which the changes came about
... [i]f you were not a member of the Rules Committee, you did not see the changes until at the earliest, Friday afternoon.
Show up Monday night and have a Committee Hearing at 7:15 and vote on it at 7:30?
It's not going to happen...if one thing should be abundantly clear by now, its that this new Council will not have anything rammed through on us. It the Committee felt that changes were needed, make your case and we will debate...otherwise, you will get what we had Monday night.
Councilman Morris (D-9 - on video from the Tuesday blog - LINK), plus this:
    I stand behind my vote on the rules change and I feel I justified my vote when you interviewed me.

    As for responding to our clerks email, all I can say is that the only people I have to explain the way I vote to is those who elected and god (sic).
Councilwoman Cirelli (at-large) did not respond with additions to her video comments from Tuesday's blog - LINK)

So as the SCPR sees it, at the very least Majority Leader Dougherty, Assistant Majority Leader Griffin and the members of the the Rules Committee exercised exceedingly poor judgment in their communications vis-a-vis the block of councilpersons who voted "no," notwithstanding Timberlake's e-mail.

If the resolution is indication of future relationships between the majority leader, his core supporters and the rest of council, then Canton city government is in for some rocky times indeed!

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