published Friday, May 24th, 2013

East Ridge Council dropping '7-day rule'

East Ridge city councilmen now can change at the last minute what they will discuss at meetings, so long as those councilmen don't act alone.

Council member voted 3-2 Thursday to let themselves add items to meeting agendas at any point. Under the former city rules, they could not make any changes if the next meeting was a week or less away.

The seven-day rule was in place so citizens would have time to research and understand the issues in question before upcoming meetings.

Under the new rules, the councilmen can make quick changes, but they can do so only if at least one other councilman wants to make the change.

Also, the councilmen can do this only if the change is considered an emergency, though what constitutes an "emergency" is open to interpretation.

But even before Thursday's meeting, council members could add items to agendas within seven days.

They just needed to go through the mayor. Only that position held the necessary power.

On Thursday, Mayor Brent Lambert and Councilman Larry Sewell voted against expanding this power to the rest of the council.

"It's good to have that ability resting with just one person," Lambert said.

At a meeting two weeks ago, Councilman Marc Gravitt pushed for the change.

He said he asked Interim City Manager Eddie Phillips to add an item to the May 9 meeting agenda but was told only the mayor could do so.

Phillips said he told Gravitt to call Lambert, something Gravitt did not do.

That same week, Sewell asked Lambert to add an item about discussing the city manager position.

Sewell missed a previous meeting when the council interviewed Chris Dorsey for the position, and he wanted to discuss that meeting. Lambert added the item to the agenda.

"To me, it hurts our ability to provide transparency," the mayor said of the new rule. "That's really the reason why [he voted against it]. That and the fact that it apparently hurts some feelings that they would have to ask me to add something to the agenda within that seven days."

Contact Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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