Like most other boards in Cherokee County, the Canton City Council has two types of meetings: non-voting work sessions and voting regular meetings. But the City Council discussed Thursday night the possibility of doing away with its policy on work sessions, which was adopted in May 2012 by the council, and bars non-emergency voting in work sessions.
Mayor Gene Hobgood brought the option forward Thursday night.
Hobgood said he thought the policy needed to be reconsidered, because the City Council has repeatedly violated it.
“I still support that policy. Government by its own nature should move slowly to keep you from screwing up any more than we already do, or any quicker,” the mayor said. “Nevertheless, this council has decided that’s not what they want to do. If it’s a policy that we’re not going to go by, we don’t need to have it.”
The City Council adopted the policy in question May 17, 2012. It states that no voting can take place in a work session, “except in cases of emergency.”
As recently as September, the council went against the rule when it voted during a work session to increase the senior trash pickup rate by 40 percent.
Councilman Bill Bryan said he was behind Hobgood’s thinking that policies should be followed.
“I would agree 100 percent that if we’re going to have a policy, we need to go by it,” Bryan said. “I was one of the ones that was a strong advocate of this work session, action session format. But like so many things the government does, it has the opposite effect of what the intended effect was.”
Bryan said the council’s policy of having one work session and one voting meeting per month has confused residents. He said he got an email just Thursday morning from a resident asking if they were allowed to join the council Thursday night, because the meeting was a “work session.”
“I think we should just admit that it seemed like a good idea that turned out to be not a good idea,” Bryan said. “We should just acknowledge that every meeting is a meeting and subject to vote.”
Councilman Hooky Huffman agreed.
Huffman asked the other council members to look around the council chambers at City Hall on Thursday night and see that very few residents were in attendance.
“It could be because work sessions normally have a (reputation) for being boring,” Huffman told the council. “If we say it’s a council meeting — which it is — then maybe we’ll turn out some people that would come in and they’d be better informed citizens.”
Hobgood said when the council adopted the policy there were two purposes.
“The thinking at the time this was put together was a work session gave the full council a meeting in which they didn’t have to start worrying about how they were going to vote until they fully understood,” he said. “Secondly, it also gave the public additional time to know what was being discussed, and if they had input, they would have a couple of meetings to have public input.”
Bryan said he would ask the council to overturn the work session policy Thursday night — if only the meeting weren’t a work session.
Instead, the City Council will decide the fate of the policy at its next voting meeting.