By Jorge Casuso
October 23, 2023 -- A proposed amendment to suspend the rules dictating how a mayor is chosen could result in the election of a Councilmember other than Phil Brock in December, according to City Attorney Doug Sloan.
But it would require several moves by the City Council before it is scheduled to vote to rubber stamp Brock's selection using a new rotating system based on seniority, according to Sloan's legal assessment issued Monday.
To suspend those rules, the Council would first need to approve a discussion item placed on Tuesday's agenda by Mayor Gleam Davis directing staff to amend the rules ("Bureaucratic Tweak or Effort to Block Next Mayor?" October 20, 2023).
Sloan's assessment lays out the current process that led to Brock's selection under a rotating system approved by the Council in January and the changes that would need to be made to suspend the rules.
"So in December 2023, the Council is required to select a Mayor following this procedure, which would mean a vote to select Councilmember Brock as Mayor," Sloan wrote in the assessment requested by Brock and Councilmember Lana Negrete.
"I don’t think it requires any resolution, but could be simply reflected in the Minutes," Sloan wrote. "To vary from this rule, the Council would need to amend the Rules prior to that vote."
"Amending the Council Rules requires four affirmative votes, and of course amending would need to be listed on the agenda."
Sloan later adds that "if not for the ability to suspend the Rules, the Council would be bound to select the next Councilmember in rotation."
The discussion item Davis placed in the agenda would delete the line: “This provision shall not be subject to a suspension of the Council Rules, and shall be implemented until duly repealed or amended by the Council.”
According to Sloan, if that line is removed, "then when it comes time to select the Mayor, someone could make a motion to suspend the Rules and vary from the rotation."
That move, however, would require five Council votes, Sloan said.
He notes that even if the rules are not suspended, at least four votes will be needed at the first meeting in December "to approve the Councilmember next in the rotation for Mayor."
"While it sounds odd to require a vote with a certain outcome, actually we see many similar issues," Sloan wrote. "Council has merely bound itself to follow this method, and it is common in many cities."
Sloan points out that under the City Charter, “The Mayor shall serve in such capacity at the pleasure of The City Council,” and "could be removed as Mayor at the very next meeting with only four votes."
Sloan then weighs the practical implications of the two scenarios and concludes that suspending the rules makes more sense.
"It might not make much sense to approve someone as Mayor, then remove that person after serving only two weeks," Sloan wrote. "Allowing for suspension of the Rules with five votes probably makes more sense than that."