BC Mayor admonishes citizens during council meeting

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2018

By Larry Holt

The Orange Leader

When Mayor David Rutledge said, “The Supreme Court, correct me if I am wrong Mr. Fukuda (City Attorney), by law, Supreme Court has decided that you don’t have to put a citizen on the agenda. They don’t have to speak. I can’t make it any plainer.”

Citizens attending the Tuesday evening city council meeting reacted with soft muttering and disbelief from their back row seats.

With a stern expression on a red face, punctuated by serious eyes, Rutledge admonished citizens, “We need to hold it down back there a little bit. We’re discussing something up here.”

For a moment council chambers fell silent as the mayor returned to face council member Carl Harbert and city attorney Paul Fukuda in continued discussion of creating a new policy and procedure that impacts the ability of the citizen to have a one-on-one discussion with their elected official in a public meeting.

“But we always have,” replied council member Carl Harbert referring to the history of Bridge City allowing citizens to be heard at city council meetings.

“I agree. I’m not saying they can’t. It’s been our practice for 50 years. The other side of that is it doesn’t have to be allowed, but we’re not going to discuss that because that’s not one of the issues in this section,” said Rutledge, referring to Section 12 and 17 of the City of Bridge City Council Decorum and Procedures Policy.

“I feel like we are trying to reinvent the wheel,” Harbert said. “ What we have was working. The only problem was you had to have two council members. The citizens come to Jerry (City Manager Jerry Jones) with a complaint. If nothing happens then they come to the council meeting. We should leave it like it is and when they come, appoint a council member to dig into it.”

Rutledge said the mayor is responsible for everything that goes on in the city and the mayor must “run all the traps, so to speak” to ensure all remedy has been exhausted before an agenda item request from a citizen is considered for inclusion.

“This is not a power play. Someone needs to be in charge,” Rutledge said. “I just think it should come through the mayor as a kind of check.”

Mayor Pro-Tem Tammi Fisette said, “If we can help the citizen clear up any misunderstanding without having to come to the city council, to me that’s a win-win situation.”

After nearly 56 minutes discussing the proposed new policy, procedure and request form, the council agreed to postpone a vote on adoption until Fukuda finalized the draft document.

Whether or not to adopt the new procedure will be discussed as an agenda item at an upcoming city council meeting.