Ties results in not paying bills

By Gray Hughes

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The 2-2 tie vote issue came up again at the Hill City Common Council meeting Monday, March 11.

During the consent calendar, John Johnson, Ward I alderman, asked that the claims for paying Brett McMacken, city administrator, Frank Bettmann, city attorney, and Connie Wolters, a member of the city planning and zoning commission, be removed from the consent calendar and be treated as an action item.

After the consent calendar was passed and it was time to vote on the claims, there was some confusion as to how the bill for Bettmann should be treated.

Since a portion of Bettmann’s bill had to do with the lawsuit asking for a declamatory judgment by Johnson and Jim Peterson, Ward II alderman, regarding a previous 2-2 tie broken by Julie Wickware-Klein, Hill City mayor, it was not clear if Johnson and Peterson were allowed to vote on the matter.

Kathy Skorzewski, Ward I alderman and council president, asked that the bill for Bettmann be broken down into three parts; one for the bill regarding the lawsuit that totaled $276.46, another portion regarding Johnson that totaled $190 and a portion that concerned general function of a city attorney that totaled $597.

She asked that both Peterson and Johnson not be able to vote on the matter regarding the lawsuit and that Johnson could not vote on the matter regarding himself.

“I asked the South Dakota Municipal League for guidance here,” Wickware-Klein said. “And they said (Johnson and Peterson) could not vote on the matter (of their lawsuit).”

Peterson took issue with that.

He said that since the bill involving the suit involved everyone no one should be allowed to vote on it since the defendants mentioned (Wickware-Klein, Skorzewski and Jason Gillaspie, Ward II aldermen) would be voting on the claim, as well.

McMacken offered his opinion.

He said he would do what the municipal league recommended.

“You would still have a quorum (if Johnson and Peterson did not vote,)” McMacken said. “I would say you could proceed with two members not being able to vote on it. That is just my opinion, though.”

Skorzewski said since Johnson and Peterson are the plaintiffs in the case, that puts them in a “different light” and she did not want to stand in the way of people getting paid for services performed.

Ultimately, Peterson said, the decision lies in the hands of the mayor.

Wickware-Klein said they would start with the bill that all aldermen could vote on, then they would vote on the bill Johnson could not vote on and then they would vote on the bill regarding the lawsuit.

The bill for $597 ended in a 2-2 tie with Skorzewski and Gillaspie voting for it and Johnson and Peterson voting against it.

The mayor did not act as the tie-breaking vote, meaning that portion of the bill would not be paid.

When it came time to vote on the bill for $190 Johnson could not vote on, that passed 2-1 with Skorzewski and Gillaspie voting for it and Peterson voting against it.

When it came time to vote on the $276.46 bill regarding the lawsuit, Wickware-Klein paused a moment before giving her ultimate opinion.

“It is my opinion that only (Gillaspie) and (Skorzewski) can vote on it,” she said.

That vote passed 2-0 with only Gillaspie and Skorzewski voting.

“I would vote against that whether I could vote or not,” Johnson said.

Then it came time to vote on the bills for paying McMacken and Wolters, the member of the planning and zoning commission.

That vote ended in a 2-2 tie with Gillaspie and Skorzewski voting for it and Johnson and Peterson voting against.

The mayor did not act as a tie-breaking vote, so it ended with a 2-2 decision that the bill would not be paid.

After the vote, McMacken excused himself from the meeting and did not return.

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