MANSFIELD — City officials have been put on notice: They will be held to their promised goal of leaving enough time for the public to react to proposed legislation before council votes.
Deborah Mount, who frequently sits in on council meetings as a member of the Cherry Hill Neighborhood Watch Group, sent an email Friday to city council members and the law director’s office, expressing frustration that Tuesday’s legislation up for a vote had not been posted online at www.ci.mansfield.oh.us.
Council voted this spring to merge its caucus discussions, formerly held on the first and third Monday of each month, with its voting meetings on the first and third Tuesday. Mount said she was concerned citizens would have little to no notice of pending legislation.
“We were assured at that time that the change would actually be an improvement, and that legislation was due a week and a day before the meeting, so there would be plenty of time for citizen review,” she told city officials in the email.
Mount said she contacted the city Friday and learned the council clerk did not post its legislation because the law director’s office had not forwarded it. The law director’s office told her the legislation would be posted by 4 p.m. Friday.
“As of now, the agenda has still not been posted for public view on the city website,” she wrote Friday night. “Because you have missed the Monday and Friday deadlines, and it can no longer be said that the public had time to see the July 3 agenda, we request that you do not vote on any piece of legislation that has not already been read at at least one council meeting.
“Even if this is the first time this omission has occurred, it should be taken seriously, and time for public review and comment must be provided.”
On Tuesday, Mount said, council legislation was posted Monday morning, but it reappeared with some changed wording later that day, expanding from 27 to 43 pages.
She also would like to see city council stick to its pledge to hold three readings on proposed ordinances. In the past, nearly all legislation approved by city council occurred on a first reading, as an “emergency.”
“Every council session I have attended has had ‘rules suspended’ and a majority of ’emergency’ pieces of legislation,” Mount said in the email.
The Cliffbrook Drive resident said it appeared at least three pieces of legislation would be approved with less than three readings Tuesday. One would accept a grant to run municipal swimming pools this summer. Two related to the proposal to put a 0.25 percent municipal income tax issue before voters this fall.
The “Save Our City” levy would last four years, Jan. 1, 2013, through Dec. 31, 2016, and would provide for “essential public services, including but not limited to streets, jailing of prisoners and providing police and fire protection,” according to wording posted later in the day Monday.
In a previous version posted earlier, the tax had been described less specifically as being “for municipal operation costs.”
Mount said she would not be able to attend city council Tuesday night, but she plans to monitor the city’s promptness in posting legislation.
“It’s just kind of a wait-and-see thing,” she said.