Some Enid city commissioners discussed changing a resolution Tuesday to ensure confidentiality in executive sessions after one commissioner recently revealed possible plans for a casino in east Enid.
City Attorney Andrea Chism presented a resolution in the Enid City Commission meeting Tuesday to amend the rules for conducting meetings of the commission and several authorities.
After she went through the rule changes, which included extending public comment from three minutes to five minutes and adding economic development as a purpose for an executive session, Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen moved to approve the resolution and Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell seconded the motion.
Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser questioned if there was anything in the resolution to ensure confidentiality of an executive session.
Chism said there was not. She said it could be considered if the city moved forward with a commission handbook or rules and regulations and that she had not received any direction from the commission on adding it to the resolution.
Mayor Bill Shewey asked what state law says, and Chism said it is silent on prohibition of discussions after an executive session.
The commission could table the item, City Manager Jerald Gilbert said.
Vanhooser moved to table it, and Ward 5 Commissioner Tammy Wilson seconded the motion. Ezzell pointed out there already had been a motion and a second.
“Thank you, mayor. Oh, I’m sorry, Ben. Go ahead mayor,” Ward 2 Commissioner Aaron Brownlee said.
“Come on,” Ezzell said to Brownlee.
The motion to approve the resolution was denied 3-3, with Wilson, Vanhooser and Brownlee voting against it. Ward 4 Commissioner Rodney Timm was absent from the meeting.
A motion to table the resolution was approved 5-1, with Ezzell voting against it.
Brownlee said he would like to continue discussion on the topic.
“I think it’s an important component to add into that resolution,” he said.
Vanhooser asked if city ordinances or charters can be more restrictive than state law.
For the most part, ordinances and charters can be more restrictive, and it’s up to the commission to determine if that’s what they want to do and if they want to provide some sort of punishment, Chism said.
“Except, the commission can’t remove a sitting commissioner,” Ezzell said, and Chism agreed. “The commission can pass a resolution of censure. You could pass a resolution of censure on the next meeting if you wanted to, David (Vanhooser), but the commission cannot remove another commissioner. And, although executive session does provide a confidentiality privilege, that privilege lies with the body and with the commissioners. It doesn’t bind the commissioners. When state law is silent, it doesn’t bind the commissioners to any confidentiality.”
Brownlee said it was interesting Ezzell referred to the commission as a body.
“But you act individually. So, you need to determine which way is most appropriate for you because what you did is not acting as a body, and that violated the confidentiality of this body and a potential development. Whether or not it has nothing to do with a casino or any other type of development, it does have something to do with a confidentiality issue,” Brownlee said, addressing Ezzell’s disclosure of the possible casino.
Ezzell said if the commission is going to discuss a resolution limiting the acts of commissioners in their capacity as a commission, there are a lot of individual acts taken by members of the body that they should consider perhaps in the form of a global ethics policy to limit a lot of what a commissioner may have done in a lot of different settings.
“Furthermore, even if we did have an ethics policy, which I think we would benefit from as a body, there is still no mechanism allowable to be passed by this body that could do anything more than slap the hand of a commissioner. I don’t care what kind of ethics policy we pass, we can’t remove each other. We are answerable to the public,” Ezzell said, adding an ethics policy is worth considering and the city can look to other communities for a model.
Brownlee asked Chism to look into adding some “teeth” to the resolution.
“I understand that there’s no way that we can remove a sitting commissioner legally, but if there are some options to add some teeth to that language, I think it’s worth looking at,” he said.