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Absence of qourum abruptly adjourns city council meeting

Matt Montgomery/Gazette
(from left to right) Piedmont City Councilmen Donnie Robinson, Al Gleichmann and Charles Coffman excuse themselves from voting on an agenda item they all three have a legal conflict associated with.

By Matt Montgomery
editor@piedmontnewsonline.com

As soon as Piedmont Mayor Valerie Thomerson began to read Business Item 8C from Monday night’s city council agenda, three councilmen abruptly excused themselves from the meeting, forcing the mayor to first apologize to audience members then call for the meeting to adjourn until the city can have a quorum in place.

A quorum is defined as the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. In the case of the Piedmont city council which has five members, three must be present to have a quorum. Once the three councilmen left the room, there was no quorum.

“Jennifer, it seems to me that we have lost our quorum, and at this point would you do a formal role call, please?” Thomerson asked to Piedmont City Clerk Jennifer Smith. Only councilmen Bobby Williamson and Robert Simpson remained.

After the council meeting was abruptly adjourned, City Councilman Charles Coffman spoke to the Gazette about his decision to excuse himself from the meeting.

“We all want growth, we do,” Coffman said. “But, a councilman has to make a decision on whether or not there’s potential conflicts. And, so we have to go with our conscience. In this case, I felt I had to leave for that reason. At some point here in the near future, hopefully, the court cases will be completed and we can get back to doing business that will benefit all the citizens. Until that point, we’re probably going to have that same situation occur. I hope not.”

The three councilmen, Charles Coffman, Donnie Robinson and Al Gleichman are all involved in a pending lawsuit with local developer Phil Boevers. The business item the councilmen excluded themselves from voting on was for a discussion on a preliminary plat of land called “Magnolia Medows,” which is owned by Rita Strubhar and Cindy Boevers, Phil Boevers’ wife. The same business item was brought before the council last month and the same three councilmen excused themselves from that discussion as well. This agenda item has been placed on the agenda twice and twice it hasn’t been discussed because of an absence of a quorum.

According to legal records filed in Canadian County in 2012, Robinson is listed as a defendant and Coffman and Gleichmann are listed as “notice recipients” in CJ-2012-46, which is a libel/slander lawsuit filed by Boevers Homes, LLC, against numerous defendants, including former Piedmont city councilman Vernon Woods, former Piedmont Mayor Mike Fina, Piedmont Planning Commissioner Ron Cardwell, John Mike Simpson, Jeff Williams and Williams Grocery, and Donya and Ron Hau, and the now defunct Piedmont Citizen newspaper.

The first two agenda items, 8A and 8B, were pulled from the agenda “due to an error with regard to the legal description,” Thomerson said. “I’ll leave it at that without going into more details.”

Before the meeting was called to order, Piedmont’s new police chief, Scott Singer, was sworn in by Thomerson.

6 Comments

  1. Pegathee says:

    They could have stayed and listen to the information and then voted on it! What kind of an elected official who doesn’t like the issue walks out on it instead of listening to it…..oh, yeah, that’s right….Congress!!
    Such ridiculous and childish behavior. Grow up, do your job, and use your vote not your feet!

  2. Charles Coffman says:

    If there is a conflict of interest the councilman leaves the room to not influence the discussion. This method is not uncommon and came out of cases when a member might influence other by facial expressions ect. Our current charter does allow for an abstain vote, but under our charter it counts as a no. In some cases the councilman may not be against the measure, but might have a financial gain or have legal issues that cause them to step out, Our charter allows for a minority to come and go during te meetings, with the seargent at arms informing those that leave when the issue is complete. In this case a majority of the council is being sued and feels there is a conflict. That left a minority, or not a quorum in the chamber. The council members could have been informed the measure could not be acted upon and they could have returned to finish the remaining meetin. In this case the mayor did not feel the legal actions constituted a conflict. Since there was no charter or meeting rules to cover a majority gone from the chamber the mayor used Roberts rules to call a role call. Had the councilmen heard the roll call they would have returned. We will need to put in place a rule to cover when a majority leaves the chamber. It should be important to note that the council did not want the item on the agenda until the court cases where complete. The mayor added it to the agenda after the builder asked that it be added. In my case I am a party to an on going legal action. If I abstain then it is a no, if I vote yes then it could appear that the legal action forced me to say yes, if I vote no then it could appear that I was taking revenge for the legal action. It should also be known that other legal action has been indicated, so I will refrain from voting until the courts decide. In our structure that means leaving the room. Best regards

  3. Charles Coffman says:

    In the above post it might be more accurate to say the majority of the council are parties to a legal action. Some are defendants, other are notice recipients on hold for 3 years in case the court decides to take their computers, phones, iPads or other items. It might also be important to note that while the plat developer is not the same one bringing the legal action, they share the same business PO box. It is not that they have the same last name that caused me pause. Both sets of businesses with their business addresses were included in the surface ownership portions of our packets for the agenda item. That portion was submitted by the developer. It should also be noted that the city is not paying any legal expenses. Other than the theater, no impact on the tax payers while this sad issue plays out.

  4. Al Ridgely says:

    It seems that once again the issue that caused the problem is biting the person who wants everything his way,I wonder why Robert didn’t do as the others did as his family is involved also, good move on the part of the others to make it clear that we won’t be held up and pushed to do something that is not right or fair to everyone. I wished we had done more in the past to stand up to this guy and maybe we wouldn’t be in the shape we are in now. these people only wish to use our town government for personal gain, nothing else, Please continue to take a stand where it’s right and don’t back down,
    Also I wish someone would do something about the parking on Piedmont rd. during school hours that is making a public safety issue, the road is blocked from Edmond rd to the school every day and people driving south and north are at risk of being hit due to this, also blocking Edmond rd totally to east bound traffic which is illegal is being over-looked by Police, both thing’s are illegal and will cause there to be accident’s sooner or later. Why has this not been taken care of before?, a lot of people complained about it to the city council and the school board, but no action, guess we want to be sued again and again. I asked the council to do something soon. Thank You

  5. JT says:

    The more things change the more they stay the same.

  6. Charles Coffman says:

    Mr Woods pointed out that our current charter does not count an abstain vote as a no, The charter committees revisions will consider it a no but that revision has not been voted on yet. I am carrying the revised version. So, an abstain would not count currently count as a no, but the councilman would be required to be in the room for the discussion of the agenda item to cast te vote. Sorry folks.

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