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Sun10222017

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MORE OPUS FALLOUT: City Hall quietly changing special meeting law that helped prompt petition drive

If you're powerful, and don't like a law, just change it

COLUMBIA, Mo 7/21/14 (Beat Byte) -- In a remarkable admission of guilt, Columbia city officials are quietly changing a city law that requires a police officer to personally notify City Council members of special meetings.  

City Manager Mike Matthes violated the law when he emailed Council members in March to attend a special meeting to approve three student apartments, including the Opus project downtown.  Public uproar over the violation was partly responsible for two petitions to halt the Opus project. 

Columbia City Ordinance 2-22 requires "a police officer to serve a notice upon the members of the Council of the time fixed for such special meeting, or leave a copy of such notice at the usual place of residence or business of such Council members with some member of his family above the age of fifteen (15) years, or with the clerk, agent or representative of his business.

Local and state laws around the country require unusual and even dramatic measures when lawmakers alter meeting times.  State police in Wisconsin, for instance, reportedly sought to return Wisconsin legislators boycotting a vote on Governor Scott Walker's union-busting bill. 

Introduced at the Council's July 7 meeting and fast-tracked for approval without debate or discussion on tonight's automatically approved Consent Agenda, Council Bill B203-14 replaces the 62-year-old police officer notification requirement with a less transparent, less cumbersome alternative:  email notification.  

Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala did not return a call seeking comment, so it's hard to determine why Council members are allowing Matthes -- who writes the Consent Agenda -- to fast track the bill without a public hearing.   Ironically, it references the Sunshine Law governing political transparency multiple times.*

The ordinance change may also be an admission that Repeal 6214 members have been right all along to challenge the process that led to the Opus approval. 

*"These things are getting very disturbing," Mr. Skala told the Columbia Heart Beat in a late-breaking addition to this story. 

"Adding these things to the Consent Agenda that can generate controversy -- and anything about Opus, as we know, can generate controversy -- the city manager shouldn't do that.   The Consent Agenda cuts folks out of the discussion, and we shouldn't do that.   It used to be, under Beck and Watkins (former city managers) that wiser Consent Agenda additions were made -- things that were purely administrative, not political or controversial.  Things that were really Consent Agenda items." 



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