Council to review rules on financial votes

WESTFIELD – City Council President Brian Sullivan is seeking to simplify the voting process on some financial issues with a motion to amend the City Council Rules.
Sullivan submitted a proposed amendment to Rule #38 on Thursday, March 21, that deals with how the council votes on financial matters and granting of rights of way.
“We get hung up all the time by financial matters that really don’t need two meetings to approve,” Sullivan said Monday. “We could vote financial requests right off the agenda instead of sending them to committee.
“Most communities now vote financial matters right of the agenda,” Sullivan said. “We don’t do that, which may not be a bad thing.”
“We have a certain way of doing things according to our City Charter, but we may be contradicting the Charter,” Sullivan said. “I contacted the Law Department and they suggested this amendment.”
The proposed amendment would delete the word “vote” from the first line of Rule # 38
“The amendment is making it possible for certain appropriations to go through at one meeting,” Shanna Reed of the Law Department side Tuesday. “There is still a mechanism to send any appropriation to committee if just one councilor objects.”
Reed said that the language of the City Charter allows the City Council to approve an appropriation at a single meeting, but that Rule #38 requires votes at two meeting held at least 10 days apart.
“Sometimes it is a good idea to send an appropriation to committee,” Reed said.  “But if there is unanimous consent by the City Council members and if the mayor or a department head is requesting an appropriation, it can be approved.”
Reed gave several examples where following the current requirements of Rule #38 process is an impediment.
“If the Law Department has a settlement for $5,000, there may be a timeline to approve that appropriation and complete the settlement,” Reed said. “There may be penalties if the payment is approved after a certain date.”
Another example is a state or federal grant that requires the city to provide local funding, typically a “local match” or a small percentage of the total grant funding.
“Why wait a month before that money is available for its intended use?” Reed said. “Right now the council can act on those appropriation matters, but it is a cumbersome process of suspending the council’s rules.”
Reed sent the following communication to Sullivan: “Attached is a proposed ordinance change to remove the word ‘vote’ from Rule 38. As we discussed, the current rules require that all votes involving the appropriation of over $2,000.00 need two readings with 10 days in between each reading. By taking out the word vote, only the Orders and Resolutions will need to be read twice with 10 days in between unless the Mayor has requested immediate consideration and 2/3 of the Council approves.”
Reed also provided the following checklist:

Appropriations Checklist:
1. Fill out form: amount of appropriation, what is the purpose, name of the account and the account number of where the money is going. Provide the Mayor with a cover letter.
2. Mayor to fill in where the money is coming from and sign for approval.
3. Auditing to verify that there is enough money in the account that the mayor has approved the money to come out of.
4. Package is sent to Council. If the Mayor is requesting immediate consideration, the box requesting the same must be checked off.
City Council Steps:
1. The Council may vote on the request IF:
a. The department head or Mayor appears in person to explain the reason for such vote; the Council may pass the order on the night presented IF council votes by unanimous consent to do so. See Charter section 21 and Rule of Council section 37.
b. If there is not unanimous support, the matter shall be sent to Finance subcommittee without being voted upon. (See Charter Section 21 stating that if any member objects, the measure shall be postponed for that evening)
2. When reported out of subcommittee, the appropriation is voted yes or no. Only a simple majority is needed, however if the appropriation is an Order or Resolution over $2,000 (per revised rule 38), it shall require two readings with 10 days in between such readings UNLESS:
a. The Mayor has checked off the box requesting immediate consideration and the Council passes the measure by 2/3 vote of the entire membership. See Rules of Council, section 38.
b. If the required 2/3 is not met, the matter fails.
**Please note that there is no requirement to suspend the rules. These steps are all taken pursuant to Council rules, as amended.

To Top