Councilman John Williams announced today he is withdrawing from consideration a rule change that would prohibit Mayor Sandy Stimpson from placing items on the board’s meeting agendas without the sponsorship of at least one councilor.
Williams said he decided to pull the proposal after speaking with council colleagues by phone Thursday and determining that it would no longer be a unanimous decision.
“This does not alleviate the problem, it was just not an acceptable way to resolve it,” Williams said. “The majority of the council did not believe it was an acceptable way to resolve it.”
However, Williams said he would not back down from the heart of the issue, which is a need for better communication between the council and the administration.
“I’m going to be working on this for as long as I’m on council,” he said.
In an interview Wednesday with Lagniappe, Williams said the intent of the proposal was to better communication between the mayor’s office and the council.
“My intent is sincere,” he said. “I want to enhance communication between the ninth and 10th floor. So, when ideas are being proposed we know about them.”
In a statement released Friday afternoon, council Vice-President Fred Richardson said he’d work with Stimpson’s office on a compromise “in the next few days.”
Councilman Joel Daves said he decided not to support the measure, after talking to a number of friends, constituents and citizens on the matter. In a statement, he wrote that opinion has been “uniformly, almost unanimously against adoption of this measure.”
In a separate statement, council President Gina Gregory wrote that she agrees with Stimpson that all elected officials should be able to sponsor and advocate for items on the agenda.
“To contradict some on this issue, we are not about counting wins and losses and when we are, we have lost sight of the bigger picture,” she wrote. “We all win when we’re able to come together to resolve differences.”
Thursday, Stimpson suggested a compromise that would allow only elected officials to submit agenda items for consideration. Agenda items could not be submitted from city attorney Ricardo Woods, or council attorney Jim Rossler.
Gregory wrote that she and Stimpson met Thursday to discuss the compromise, which “addresses the very issues the councilmembers were concerned about,but does not restrict nor embarrass him.”
In a statement, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he applauded Williams for his move to withdraw the rule change.
“This is the best outcome for the administration, the council, and most importantly the citizens of Mobile,” the statement read. “As we have said from the beginning, we simply could not support any attempt to stall progress in Mobile, particularly at a time when we are all seeing results like never before.”
Williams said he would not use the rule change to “purposely derail” any of Stimpson’s initiatives. He did not immediately return requests for additional comment this morning.The proposal was first pitched at a Rules Committee meeting in June 2015. The meeting followed what Williams called an “embarrassing” episode, where Stimpson’s office had proposed a ban on feeding squirrels in city parks. Since that time, the council and administration had agreed to test the proposal with no formal commitment. Issues did arise toward the end of last year though, when the administration asked to have the contract for Riverside Ice placed on the agenda without council sponsorship.
This led to an Administrative Services employee leveling intimidation charges against Stimpson Chief of Staff Colby Cooper, even though having an item placed on the agenda without council approval was not contrary to the ordinance.
City Clerk Lisa Lambert confirmed that she and Council President Gina Gregory did speak to Stimpson about an employee receiving “conflicting directives.”
After the legal department deposed six people including Stimpson about the incident, Cooper was absolved of wrongdoing.
Even though city attorney Ricardo Woods used Riverside Ice as an example of a successful initiative that originally had no council support, Williams said he supported it early on. He added that the incident involving Cooper and the employee was most likely related to a deadline for placing the item on the agenda.