Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Citrus Heights council votes 3-2 for controversial rule change

Bret Daniels, use-of-force, AB 392
File photo, Citrus Heights Councilman Bret Daniels requests an item to be placed on the council agenda during a meeting last year.

Sentinel staff report–
In an unusual 3-2 split vote Thursday night, the Citrus Heights City Council voted to change a long-standing rule that will now make it more difficult for individual council members to place items on the agenda.

Existing policy has required a council member to gain the support of one other council member before an item is allowed to be put on the agenda. The set time for council members to bring up items to place on a future agenda is at the end of each council meeting, where a “second” is needed to put the item on an upcoming agenda.

The approved change now requires three out of five members of the council to agree to put an item on the agenda for it to be heard, instead of the current requirement of two council members.

In an email to The Sentinel, Councilman Bret Daniels called the change “Bulls__” and said it was targeted at trying to silence him, in the event that Tim Schaefer is elected to the City Council in November. Schaefer and Daniels teamed up together in the 2016 election, offering eachother mutual endorsements.

Daniels requested the item be pulled from the consent calendar for discussion on Thursday, asking why the change was proposed and whether there had been any problems stemming from the existing policy. Daniels also advocated for waiting until after the election, when the council will have at least one new member due to Mayor Jeff Slowey’s decision to retire from the council.

Slowey said there haven’t been any problems with the current policy, but advocated for the rule change and said he is still a sitting council member tasked with voting on policy during his term. City Manager Chris Boyd said the change was proposed to bring the city in line with “best practices” of other cities and said the change would help ensure agenda items are “likely more actionable.”

Daniels said he hadn’t heard “anything at all from the city manager that would indicate that it would be better to move this to a third person requirement.” He also said “simply because other cities or entities do it doesn’t seem to be a very strong argument as to the fact that we should do it.”

Some concern was raised during the meeting about the impact of the policy relating to the Ralph M. Brown Act, which requires transparent and open discussion of public matters. The act prohibits council members from talking among themselves about agenda items outside of a public meeting.

City Attorney Ryan Jones said the Brown Act prohibits the city manager from “polling” council members about agenda items, but has an exception that the manager or city staff can “poll” council members individually to see if there is interest in placing an item on an upcoming agenda.

Slowey said items from individual council members can instead be brought up and discussed during the council’s strategic planning retreats, typically held twice a year. During these meetings, which are open to the public, the council and staff discuss and set policy items to be focused on over the next six-months, along with setting and revising three-year goals.

Slowey was joined by councilwoman Jeannie Bruins and Porsche Middleton in voting in favor of the rule change, while Vice Mayor Steve Miller joined Daniels in voting “no.”

Two public comments were received and read during the council meeting, from resident David Warren and District 1 council candidate Tim Schaefer. Both were opposed to the change in rules, with Warren alleging the change would allow “tyranny” of the majority to suppress views held by one or two council members.

Councilwoman Porsche Middleton posted an explanation for her vote on her Facebook page late Thursday night, saying that the city continues to undergo change since it incorporated in 1997.

“Having a majority to add items to future agendas will insure (sp) that no two councilmembers can push their own personal agenda,” Middleton said in the post. “It is a safe guard to make sure everything that is being brought forward is in the best interest for all residents regardless of what district they live in or who their Council Member is.”

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)