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Heated Debate at City Council

GREENSVILLE/EMPORIA DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES

LOCAL BOARD MEETING

The Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services Administrative Board will hold its regular meeting Thursday, June 20, 2019, at 3:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Greensville/Emporia Department of Social Services located at 1748 East Atlantic Street.

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The April 2nd meeting of the Emporia City Council started with the usual agenda items. The only difference at this meeting was that Council Member Woody Harris asked that one item be removed from the bills not paid. The item in question was an invoice from Troutman Sanders for $1,016.20. The expense wan incurred when other members of City Council had questions about the appointment of Marva Dunn to the School Board. The motion to not pay said invoice carried.

There was no other discussion about the minutes, bills or reports and the agenda was approved.

City Council presented a resolution to Thelma Adkins-Riley for her work in Civil Rights, a photo and story will follow at a later date.

Shawn Nicholson, of Crater Workforce Development Board (http://www.craterworkforce.org/) made a presentation on some new workforce programs in the City.  Shion Fenty was also involved in the presentation. Ms Fenty is the representative in charge of the Emporia Center.

The program – P.O.W.E.R. (Promoting Outstanding Work Ethics & Responsibility) is available to young people age 17-24 who may have impediments to entering the workforce. The program targets 11th and 12th graders, High School Graduates, Dropouts, GED Students and people who have a criminal record.

Services offered through the P.O.W.E.R. program include job search assistance, Paid Job Training, GED preparation, work readiness skills, a financial education and more. The program also offers career exploration and planning with individual assessments to help participants determine a career path. In addition, there are support services and follow-ups.

The program was created and is funded thanks to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. There are centers in Emporia and Petersburg.

For those interested in more information, the Emporia Center is located at 1300 Greensville County Circle, Suite C and may be reached at (434)632-0935.

A presentation was also made with information on the upcoming U. S. Census. Shirley Gilliam made a presentation that stressed the importance of counting all of our citizens. The Census occurs once every ten years, and is the basis for nearly all federal funding, representation to the U. S. House of Representatives and is the basis for redistricting, at all levels - local, state and federal.

City Council also approved a 180 day extension of the Electronic Gaming Machine Moratorium, giving the City Manager, Commonwealth’s Attorney and others time to formulate a plan on how to deal with the machines going forward.

Council Member Harris made a motion for an Operation Rule for City Council. This rule would require all expenditures made by members of City Council or officers/employees of the city to gain approval from the Council before any funds are committed or spent. Council Member Yolanda Hines suggested that the item be tabled so that it could be discussed further and the procedures of other localities could be explored.

In the Public Comments, Jesse O’Neary asked that the City Council consider bringing back the Pork Festival, in cooperation with Greensville County. This festival was good for the City and County, and is “too old for us to get rid of, so let’s fall in love with it.”

Debra Brown addressed the vote to not pay a bill. She stated that the bill should be paid and was only incurred because the City’s attorney “can’t read or comprehend” the code. She also added that “you knew that you violated the code four years ago and turned around and violated it again in December;” in reference to the appointment of Marva Dunn to the School board. It is the opinion of Troutman Sanders that the appointment was unlawful.

Melvin Hines also rose to address City Council, saying that it is a “waste of time to talk about not paying this law firm,” and calling the actions of City Council “nonsense and a waste of time. You’ll pay now or pay later.”

After the public comments, City Council recessed into closed session to discuss “a matter involving the acquisition of real property for public purposes because discussing in an open session would adversely affect our bargaining position.”

After the closed session (Editor’s Note-I stayed to see if there would be any information about the real property as this has been a closed session item at several meetings, but no action was taken on whatever was discussed in closed session) Council Member Carol Mercer made a motion to reconsider a previous action taken by City Council.

Council Member Mercer moved to reconsider the removal of the Troutman Sanders invoice from the rest of the bills and not paying it. The motion was seconded by Council Member Hines.

After the motion was seconded, Council Member Harris objected to allowing Council Member Hines to second the motion, believing that only a member of the prevailing side could second a motion to reconsider. A copy of Robert’s Rules of Order was found, at Council Member Harris’ urging, and the rule was looked up. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, any member of a voting body may second a motion to reconsider.

On a vote of 4-3, the motion to reconsider was carried.

Another motion was required to take action on payment of the invoice, and that action carried, also on a vote of 4-3. The Troutman Sanders invoice will be paid with the rest of the bills presented to City Council.

The motion to reconsider was the most drama-filled portion of the meeting.

During the discussion of the invoice from Troutman Sanders, the Mayor pointed out that thousands of dollars were spent on phone calls to the law firm when Council Member Harris’ wife applied for a job. This prompted a “point of personal privilege,” during which he accused the Mayor of throwing “another stick of dynamite” on the fire.

Mayor Mary Person told Council Member Harris that she would not be bullied. Council Member Harris stated that he thought that some bulling had taken place during the recess – implying that Council Member Mercer was forced into making the motion to reconsider.

This discussion became heated at times, and at one point, Council Member Harris raised his voice at the Mayor. The Mayor showed some frustration, but she did not respond to Council Member Harris in-kind.

Council Member Harris also stated that it was his belief that the contract with Troutman Sanders only allowed questions from the City Attorney or City Manager, as opposed to any member of Council being able to call and run up a bill. City Manager William Johnson stated that there was no contract.

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