The Memphis City Council met with a six-member quorum Tuesday and was able to pass some of the Dec. 4 council agenda that has been on hold since four members walked out amid a vote on an election to fill the vacant District 1 seat.
Council members Joe Brown, Jamita Swearengen, Patrice Robertson and Martavius Jones did not attend specially-called sessions held on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week or on Tuesday.
The meetings were held under a special provision of the home rule charter that allow council members to hold meetings every day, if necessary, to reach a quorum.
Attorney Allan Wade on Tuesday said that when the four council members walked out of the Dec. 4 meeting it was believed that a seven-member quorum was necessary to conduct business by the council.
He said research showed that resolutions could be passed with a six-member quorum under the current circumstances, but not ordinances.
Presently, there are 10 members sitting on the council and three empty seats, he noted.
“A majority of 10 is six. …You do have a quorum in my opinion.”
Wade advised that ordinances on the Dec. 4 agenda be moved to the Dec. 18 meeting.
Council members present Tuesday were Reid Hedgepeth, Frank Colvette, Kemp Conrad, J. Ford Canale, Worth Morgan and Chairman Berlin Boyd.
Attorney Rickey Wilkins attempted to address the council after Wade, saying, “I rise today on behalf of four of your colleagues…”
But Boyd told him he had to fill out a comment card and wait until the “heel” of the session.
After the council handled its agenda items, Wilkins addressed those present. He said by charter the council had 30 days to fill the vacancy in District 1, and “that 30 days has come and gone…
“At the conclusion of the Nov. 20 meeting there was a highest vote getter that should have been, in our opinion, approved to serve the residents of District. 1,” he said. “For reasons not fully clear to me, this body chose not to accept her (Rhonda Logan)…”
Wilkins said there is also an issue concerning the voting.
“We believe during the Nov. 20 vote on the 10th round it should have concluded in the District 1 position being filled by the highest vote getter, who happens to be Miss Rhonda (Logan), because when one of your members chose not to vote…that left 11 members voting and with 11 members voting a majority would have been six and she obtained those six votes,” he said.
Wade said she needed seven votes on Nov. 20 because there were 12 council members at the meeting.
After Tuesday’s meeting was over, Wilkins said Brown, Swearengen, Robinson and Jones did not attend the specially-called session because of various commitments. He said they all planned to be present at the next regularly scheduled council meeting on Dec. 18.
Boyd said the city “made sure we crossed all of our T’s and dotted our I’s” in Tuesday’s meeting.
“We have business,” he said. “We don’t have time to play games.”
Boyd said the council has the authority to leave the District 1 position vacant if members cannot come to a consensus. He didn’t say for how long.
Boyd said his goal is to find a consensus candidate for District 1 that can be elected, if not, “…we’ll just punt it.”
During the council’s action on Tuesday
Many items passed unanimously, with some items withdrawn and others put on hold.
Items approved included the appropriation of $416,666 to install fiber cabling at 21 community centers and three senior citizen centers. The upgraded fiber cabling at the 24 locations are expected to improve connectivity at the centers.
The council also voted to use $2.8 million in funds for improvements, maintenance and furniture and equipment updates at community centers, senior citizen centers and parks throughout all 7 districts of the city.
With approval from 5 of the 6 present council members, the council accepted funds for 22 Memphis Police Department RTCC cameras in 8 separate resolutions. The $174,860 in funds will provide cameras on Lamar Ave., Heistan Place, Christ United Methodist Church on Poplar Ave., Homewood Rd., October Rose Dr., Goodwill Village on Peres Ave., Reese Rd., and Kirby Gate Blvd.
The council also agreed to a resolution accepting grant funds of $65,079 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Bulletproof Vest Partnership program. The funds will be used to purchase bulletproof vest for law enforcement officers.
The council placed resolutions dealing with Memphis Light, Gas and Water’s budget and requests for rate increases on hold until the Dec. 18 meeting.
As he left city hall, J.T. Young, president and CEO of MLGW, said, “…we’d like to have a decision by the 18th so we will be able to have some certainty going forward into 2019.”