ES Mayor vetoes vote choosing Matsukis for council vacancy

Friday, December 14, 2007

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Emotions ran high Monday night as the Eureka Springs City Council voted for Pat Matsukis to replace Charlotte Buchanan as the alderman for Ward 2 Position 1, and Mayor Dani Joy vetoed the action.

That leaves the matter delayed until the council's Jan. 14 meeting.

The council's and Joy's action followed considerable comment by citizens on two issues.

The first round of comments criticized council members who left the meeting two weeks ago after introduction of proposed City Ordinance 2068, which addresses procedures for removal of appointed officials from office.

That ordinance would allow the council to remove city commissioners without participation by the mayor, who can currently veto actions to remove a commissioner.

The second round of comment centered on the vacated council seat, with most calling for one of the original candidates to be appointed, along with many favoring Matsukis.

Matsukis apologized for not giving her name to Joy earlier, and said she would accept the position if offered.

James "Rick" Bright, one of the original candidates cautioned the council not to be hasty in replacing Buchanan. The two other candidates, Lori Weaver and former council member Robert "Butch" Berry were not present.

Despite Bright's caution, the council immediately voted, denying his nomination 3 to 2, and naming Matsukis to the post by the same vote, with council members Kathy Harrison, Ray Hahn and Eric Scheunemann, who left the previous meeting, voting for her.

Debate quickly developed regarding how to resolve Ordinance 2068, with Joy and City Attorney Tim Weaver arguing that the proposed ordinance regarding commission vacancies had failed, as the walk-out constituted three abstentions, which is effectively the same as voting no.

Scheunemann and Harrison cited Robert's Rules of Order, saying that when they called for a point of order, the meeting should have halted, thus nullifying any vote in progress.

While the two council members insisted they called for a point of order, neither Joy nor City Clerk M.J. Sell could recall that happening.

With no further insight, the council agreed to consider the proposed ordinance again at the next regular meeting.

The county's proposed rent increase for the downstairs rooms in the courthouse used by the city was discussed, with Joy and Weaver stating that no record could be found requiring the city to pay the county any rent at all.

The city currently pays $756 per month, and has for 20 years. The county's proposal would more than double that amount.

Originally, in 1905, the city donated the acreage for the courthouse, along with $2,000. Joy questioned if the city could pursue a refund of the rent paid since 1980, which totals almost $250,000.

The council voted to have Weaver investigate the matter further and report back at the Jan 14 meeting.

Scheunemann addressed new speed bumps on Mill Hollow Road, saying that they damaged vehicles if they hit the bumps at the legal speed. He suggested that the bumps be softened with asphalt to create small ramps which wouldn't cause damage.

Meanwhile, Public Works Director Jay Wilson could offer no solution regarding turkey buzzards, which have returned to the city, primarily in the area of Linwood and Ridgeway streets.

The council decided to call for volunteers to clear the underbrush from the private property where the buzzards are roosting, and for the underbrush to be hauled way for shredding at the recycling center.

In other business, proposed Ordinance 2070, regarding occupation licenses, and proposed Ordinance 2072, renewing Cox Cable's TV franchise agreement, passed on their second readings.

Three other proposed ordinances failed on their first readings, those defining taxis, raising the city clerk's salary, and addressing demolition by neglect.

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