Red Bank At Impasse With Only 4 Commissioners; $10,000 Election Necessary To Fill Vacancy

Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - by Gail Perry

Red Bank commissioners are at an impasse. Since Kenneth Welch, the commissioner from district 3, moved away and left the commission that position has been vacant leaving four elected officials to make choices dealing with city business, which has resulted in tie votes on important decisions. 

At the May 20 meeting the commissioners were unable to get a majority when attempting to appoint a replacement for the vacant seat. That issue was tabled until Tuesday night with the same four residents willing to serve on a temporary basis, from this date until the November 2014 general election.

Discussions about the candidates have taken place in work-study meetings prior to the commission meeting.

Mayor John Roberts had called each candidate prior to the meeting to let them know they would be given the opportunity to speak for three minutes to the commissioners and the public that was present. Both Commissioner Floy Pierce and Rick Causer opposed allowing them to speak saying it was a surprise and was not on the agenda. In order to move the meeting forward, the candidates were not given the chance to speak.

Mayor Roberts said that he wanted the fiscal year 2014-1015 budget to pass. Chances for that to happen would increase by having a fifth vote. Mayor Roberts nominated Becky Browder to fill the appointment and Commissioner Eddie Pierce seconded the motion. The vote ended in a tie with Commissioners Causer and Floy Pierce voting no.

Mayor Roberts made a second motion to nominate Edward Lecompte that again was seconded by Mr. Pierce resulting in the same split vote. A third motion by the mayor to appoint Jon Baker, seconded by Eddie Pierce, ended with another tie.

Commissioner Causer then nominated the fourth candidate, Jane Hosemann which was seconded by Floy Pierce. A vote of no from the mayor and Eddie Pierce caused this motion to fail.

Mayor Roberts announced that because the commissioners could not come to an agreement there would be a special called election to fill the vacancy. The cost will be around $10,000 for the city to have this  election to fill the vacancy for five months.

In new business an attempt to pass on first reading, the proposed budget for 2014-2015 failed. Mayor Roberts prefaced the vote by saying that first reading and vote is a formality and the budget has not been finalized. Included now in the proposed budget of $5,927,716 is a three percent pay raise for employees, additional police and fire personnel and a lot of one-time-buys. This budget has no property tax increase.  More work/study budget meetings are scheduled. The next one is scheduled for Thursday 5 p.m.

Floy Pierce and Rick Causer both asked to postpone the first reading of the budget, saying that decisions had not yet been made and adjustments are needed. Mayor Roberts responded that many cut-backs had been made at the last workshop. Eddie Pierce agreed saying he thought that a lot of cuts had already been made and items had already been put in the “bucket list.” Commissioner Floy Pierce and Causer succeeded in tabling the first reading of the budget until June 17. The second reading must take place before the end of June.

Past commissioner Ruth Juno spoke to the commissioners telling them that this inability to get a majority vote is an example of why an appointment to the District 3 seat was needed immediately. It is obvious that Mayor Roberts and Eddie Pierce are willing to work together and compromise, she said. They made three appointments, but all failed.

Another citizen told the commissioners that she had attended the workshop meeting earlier on Tuesday and there were no disagreements at that time. You should be in “general agreement” when coming into a meeting. “This is very child-like - I’m sorry, I’m not proud of Red Bank right now,” she said.

James Webster, another city resident, said it was amazing that the city has four qualified candidates that he said can do the job yet will be spending $10,000 for a special election.

Yet another person added that the commissioners have had ample time to replace the District 3 position. He expressed disappointment that Mrs. Pierce and Mr. Causer would not allow candidates to speak. “I’m disappointed by what I’ve seen here tonight,” he said.

One ordinance was approved on second reading that will put restrictions on merchandise that is displayed around the exterior of a building. It also defines the distance of set-backs from the right of way.

Officials are in the process of clarifying the city code with respect to animal control. City Attorney Arnold Stulce said there currently is no leash law in Red Bank. He said the code just specifies that the owner must be in control of their animal when it is outside the confines of fenced property. A leash will now be required. Amendments also provide that no person will be cruel to an animal. Another addition is that an owner must clean up after his pet or face up to a $50 fine.  Commissioner Causer said the ordinance needed to be re-worded and made a motion to table it until June 17.

Acting as the Red Bank Beer Board, a beer permit for off-site consumption was issued to Amber Busbee on behalf of the Rite Aide store at 4038 Dayton Blvd.




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