When three new Louisiana City Council members won the April 2 election, the distinct possibility of a 4-4 split on votes became evident.
That possibility turned into an immediate reality on Monday, April 6 after Bart Niedner, Kathy Smith and Sal Pollice were sworn into office.
With the mayor pro-temp election as the first order of business, Pollice nominated Smith to take the position that fills in for the mayor in his absence.
Pollice, Niedner, Smith and councilman Chuck Hoffman voted for Smith. Councilmen Jim Wood, Monroe Elliott, Larry White and Russell Stephens voted against Smith.
With the tie established, Mayor Tom Wallace chose to let the matter die without casting a deciding vote.
Councilman Elliott then nominated Stephens.
The 4-4 vote was established again between the factions, but in reverse with Wood, Elliott, White and Stephens voting for Stephens and Niedner, Pollice, Smith and Hoffman voting against him.
This time, Wallace broke the tie and voted to seat Stephens.
Asserting his new authority, Niedner questioned the second order of business, which was Wallace’s committee appointments.
Niedner asked if the board could have more input on the selections and was told no by Wallace.
“It’s my job to pick them,” Wallace said before the council voted 6-2 to accept the appointments. This time, Hoffman and Pollice joined with White, Wood, Stephens and Elliott to avert a tie. Smith and Niedner voted no.
But Niedner’s concerns didn’t go unanswered.
Later in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to discuss and possibly revise the structure and functions of committees at a special council study session to be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 15.
Niedner said the committee reports are often “regurgitation of the minutes,” of the prior meeting.
“We could do better by examining the way these committees are structured,” he added.
Wallace noted that the council committees structure “hasn’t been revisited for years.”
In that same study session, the new council will discuss two ordinances.
One is to codify the ordinances passed last year. The other would officially drop a standing item on almost every council agenda that allow the board to go into executive session for personnel, real estate and litigation matters.
The council was advised to take the blanket item off the agendas by the Missouri State Attorney General’s Office.
The requests followed complaints that the blanket reasons for closed sessions were not in compliance with the state Sunshine Law, which regulates open meetings and records. The Attorney General’s office said the city needed to be more explicit about what they were going into closed session for on its agendas.