Move to Limit Chairman’s Term Fails

FAIRFIELD – Prior to County Council’s vote Tuesday night on the second part of their amended bylaws, Council member Carolyn Robinson (District 2) presented a motion that would effectively unseat sitting Chairman David Ferguson (District 5).

Robinson’s motion, to limit the chairmanship to non-consecutive 2-year terms beginning in 2015 and to add that, in the absence of any other provisions governing meetings, Roberts Rules of Order takes over, came on the heels of intense discussion over the first part of the amended bylaws. That amendment, which ended Council’s long-standing use of committees and replaced them with work sessions, passed 4-3, with Robinson, David Brown (District 7) and Kamau Marcharia (District 4) voting against the changes.

“If I remember right, it was proposed 10 or 12 years ago, that you can’t succeed yourself,” Brown said in support of Robinson’s motion to impose restrictions on the chairmanship.

“It’s never been proposed in 14 years, because I’ve been here 14 years,” Ferguson said. “The only thing I can say about this is ya’ll keep forgetting this is the democratic process. If four members on this council want to support one member on this council to be the chair, they certainly have the right because they’ve got the same constituency everybody else has. Now, when we start saying we don’t like the chairman or we don’t like what the chairman’s doing or the way this council’s going, we’re going to make up rules to keep this chairman from being chairman again. That’s what this is all about. Let’s just come on out and say what we need to say. Let’s just be honest with this thing. There needs to be a real clear understanding, and I’m going to ask Mr. Jack James to address that understanding.”

Ferguson then asked James, the County attorney, for his opinion on who controls council meetings. James confirmed that the Chairman is the “moderator and controller” of all Council meetings.

“In relation to rules?” Robinson asked. “Is that in relation to Roberts Rules if something comes up and we don’t have anything to govern it?”

“You have something to govern it,” Ferguson said. “The chairman runs the council meeting.”

Shryll Brown, Clerk to Council, read at Ferguson’s request an opinion from Thomas Sprott, a previous attorney for Council, confirming that “absent a rule, the chairman rules.”

“I think we’ve pretty well put that issue to bed,” Ferguson said, then called for the vote, which only garnered the support of Brown and Robinson.