Hartford City Council Lets Presiding Officer Vote Twice, Rejects Mayoral Recall Petition

One citizen, one vote… unless you’re the president of the Hartford City Council protecting your mayor from a recall vote.

In a well-attended and heated meeting last night, six members of the Hartford City Council voted 4–3 to reject a petition filed by citizens calling for recall of Mayor Bill Campbell.

Mayor Campbell excused himself from the discussion of the petition and did not vote. The third and fourth votes to reject the petition came from council president Doyle Johnson. The council cites SDCL 9-8-7 to justify the presiding officer’s double vote:

President and vice president of council–Election and duties. At the first regular meeting after the annual election in each year and after the qualification of the newly elected aldermen, the council shall elect from among its own members a president and vice president, who shall hold their respective offices for the municipal year.

The president of the council in the absence of the mayor shall be the presiding officer of the council, and during the absence of the mayor from the first or second class municipality or his temporary disability shall be acting mayor and possess all the powers of the mayor.

In the absence or disability of the mayor and president of the council the vice president shall perform the duties of the mayor and president of the council [SDCL 9-8-7].

Hartford City Council minus Mayor Campbell
Hartford City Counc—wait a minute….

I find that interpretation incredible. The U.S. Senate provides for the president pro tempore to preside over the Senate when the Vice-President is absent, but no one imagines (does one?) that in such a situation, the president pro tempore would get to cast a second vote to break a tie.

This two-vote absurdity runs counter to the idea of a quorum. SDCL 9-8-8 says that a majority of members of the council must be present to do business. If three members of a seven-member council meet, they can’t do business. The council president can’t gather two sympathetic councilors when the mayor’s out of town, invoke SDCL 9-8-7, declare his trio a quartet, and start passing ordinances.

Furthermore, SDCL 9-8-10 says that passing an ordinance or proposal requires “the concurrence of a majority of all the aldermen.” Possessing “all the powers of the mayor” under SDCL 9-8-7 does not entail becoming a second alderman with a second vote that can break a tie and form a majority of all the aldermen. Even when the mayor is absent, SDCL 9-8-10 says that nothing passes unless it gets the vote of four different people.

The petition needed 264 signatures; citizens collected 314 signatures, 286 of which were valid. The Hartford City Council appears to have used an absurd interpretation of state law to deny the will of the people. If the three-person minority of the council thinks the petition against Mayor Campbell is too vague, petitioners should perhaps try something more specific: petition to recall Councilors Johnson, Ryan Bortnem, and Bill Haugen, Jr., for their malfeasance in violating the fundamental principle of one citizen, one vote.


50 Responses to Hartford City Council Lets Presiding Officer Vote Twice, Rejects Mayoral Recall Petition

  1. Lanny V Stricherz

    Don’t let the politicians determine who we are. Here is the South Dakota that we are and of which we can be proud.

    http://www.homesnacks.net/if-youre-from-south-dakota-this-will-be-the-most-jaw-dropping-thing-you-see-all-week-guaranteed-123406/

  2. I’m puzzled as to why the chair felt he had to vote twice, since if everyone votes once they still would need 4 votes to take action. True, they couldn’t pass a vote to deny the petition – that’s 3-3, so it fails. But did they not appear to have four votes to approve the petition either, so that motion would fail too by the same vote, 3-3. So they would be at the same place — not approving the petition — without the distraction of one person voting twice.

  3. More corrupt Republicans at play. Even when the people win on issues, there overlords deny due process. I would say that this could be taken to a higher court, but, in South Dakota, it is just as corrupt. All we need now is castles for our lords (ones that won’t burn down).

  4. Apparently, part of the new NORM, here in our great state.

  5. Good point, Roberta! The council has to take action to accept the petition and call an election, right? Tie is stalemate, same effect, no legal twister. Can anyone explain the lengths to which Johnson went to block the petition?

  6. Jerry, do we have party affiliations for the Hartford City Council members?

  7. mike from iowa

    Thanks for the vid,Lanny. Now I feel like I’ve seen all South Dakota has to offer,except for the layers of corruption. No,wait. I seen more corruption than anything else,so far. Still,there is a lot to see and enjoy.

  8. What Roberta said. 3-3 fails the same as 3-4. No majority either way. That extra vote didn’t matter. According to the news the city’s attorney was present for the meeting so you have to believe that the attorney advised the council president he could cast a tie-breaking vote standing in for the mayor. But once again, the result is the same with or without that tie-breaking vote.

  9. mike from iowa

    According to the Argus Leader,the city attorney advised the council that the recall petition was too vague and didn’t meet any of the 10 criteria for a recall.

    City web page does not list party affiliations for councilmembers.

  10. Hey! Isn’t that tall guy with the beard Bill Haugen, Jr. Bill Janklow’s son-in-law with felony drug convictions that Janklow pardoned so he could get his law license? I guess they had two lawyers in the room when that tie-breaking vote was cast.

  11. any city/county atty has probably ruled on this kind of thing numerous times. there also may be case law interpreting the question. call a city atty.

  12. in a related matter, county atty sarah frankenstein’s 20 page motion to dismiss in the Jackson county/Wanblee voting satellite case likely cost more than one election. see mercer

  13. These clowns knew what they were doing when they broke the law. Anybody willing to lawyer up should pick the highest-priced law firm and run up some budget busting expenses because the council will lose the appeal and pay all the lawsuit costs. And maybe, just maybe, the taxpayers in Hartford will stop turning their backs and do a smarter job of electing trustworthy people.

    BTW, isn’t this the same council that blew the whistle on Steve Hickey’s petitions?

  14. Kathleen Puttmann

    This article is well said!! Kudos to the journalist!!

  15. Interested Observer

    Funny that the City Attorney did not mention in his comments the two South Dakota Supreme Cases that address mayoral recall petitions, and he only talked about the 1983 Attorney General opinion which is not even legally binding. That AG Opinion did not address WHO decides the sufficiency of the recall petition.

    The South Dakota Supreme Court cases of State v. Leyse, 60 SD 384, 244 NW 529 (1932) and Berdahl v. Norstad, 64 SD 347, 266 NW 686 (1936), which ARE binding legal authority in South Dakota, make it very clear that the decision of the sufficiency of the petition belongs to the AUDITOR, not the governing body / council. In the Leyse case, the Supreme Court stated “…it is true that the duty is placed upon the AUDITOR to examine the petition…” That case continues, “The point is simply this, that in many of the recall statues, it is in the first place made the duty of the city AUDITOR to examine the petition, and in the second place it is made his duty to ascertain the SUFFICIENCY of the petition with the method that he is to pursue fixed by the statute.” The Court there concluded, “We are of the opinion that under our statue, it is the duty of the AUDITOR to ascertain whether or not the petition is signed by the requisite number of qualified electors, in such a manner as he deems reasonable. In performing this duty the auditor exercises discretion and acts in a QUASI JUDICIAL CAPACITY.” It continues, “The nature of the duty of the city auditor being quasi judicial, any action on his part, in certifying the sufficiency of the petition, can only be reviewed upon appeal, unless he has acted arbitrarily or fraudulently.”

    In the Berdahl case, the Supreme Court stated that it interpreted the South Dakota recall petition statute “as conferring a BROAD DISCRETION UPON AUDITORS of municipalities.” These cases, not even referenced by the City Attorney in his presentation last night, make it clear that the gatekeeper is the AUDITOR, NOT THE COUNCIL!

    Indeed, the statute dealing with the council’s duty is SDCL 9-13-31, which states “The governing body SHALL, upon the PRESENTATION [not approval or acceptance, but PRESENTATION of the petition by the auditor] of a petition pursuant to § 9-13-30, within ten days, order and fix a date for holding a special election, to be on a Tuesday not less than thirty nor more than fifty days from the date of the order of the governing body.” This is a mandatory act. By law, if the auditor PRESENTS the petition after the auditor’s review, the governing body is mandated to set the recall election date. Yet, somehow, the City Attorney didn’t mention these cases in his presentation.

    Councilman Haugen claimed that the 1968 amendments adding specific grounds for recall made those cases irrelevant, but they have not been overturned and are still good law. Moreover, both of the applicable statutes were amended subsequent to the 1968 amendments, with full knowledge by the legislature of the prior cases saying it was the auditor’s duty to examine the petition, and the legislature did not change either statute to change the recall petition process. The specific grounds were added, but the PROCESS of the auditor’s review and presentation to the governing body, and the governing body’s ensuing duty, upon such presentation, to set a recall election date, were not modified by the legislature in any fashion.

    In my humble opinion, this council stole the decision, trumped the auditor’s decision and acted illegally. Councilman Haugen stated at the meeting that the auditor’s task was merely “ministerial”, but the case law, which is old but still effective, makes it very clear that the auditor has “broad discretion” and acts in a “quasi judicial” capacity”, and that language is completely inconsistent with a “ministerial” act. This was a railroad job and effectively robs the citizens of Hartford of their statutory right to demand a recall election under the procedures provided by the legislature.

  16. Rohr, you’re right! Second from the right, standing, Bill Haugen, Jr., city councilor, beneficiary of his father-in-law’s pardon. Haugen should add to the legal knowledge in the room… but I still think they got it wrong.

  17. 96, this council didn’t quite blow the whistle on Hickey’s petitions. There was a lot of hearsay, but none have yet stepped up with prosecutable testimony on the record.

  18. I.O., I hope you don’t mind my addition of paragraph breaks to your comment. You basically just wrote the legal for any Hartford petitioner who wants to appeal this decision to circuit court.

    By the way, if the petition approval power lies with the auditor, then in Hartford’s case, does that power go to the city finance officer, Karen Wilber?

    On SDCL 9-13-31: what day did the citizens present their petition? Does the council still have a chance to reconvene and set an election date within the 10-day window?

  19. io-u may be right. people on boards know how to get what they want, and have access to staff lawyers

  20. does bill campbell have higher office in mind?

  21. My understanding that when presented with a petition the council has to except it, this does not mean they agree with it,But except and bring to a vote of the people. The council can go back to other issues that have been dealt with and petitions were accepted, some cases had first and second readings others were put on a ballot for the citizens to vote on. A petition that is legal and has a legit reason for it needs to be accepted and put to the vote of the people. After all who is the one paying these salaries? Also who elected these people. Also show to me how one person gets two votes. you are a councilmember who covers for the mayor when absent,one vote. Since when has this council become so unfriendly and high and mighty that the people of Hartford do not matter anymore?

  22. Francis Schaffer

    Just a reminder that 50% of all attorneys finished in the bottom half of their graduating class.

  23. ouch

  24. Richard Schriever

    The “sufficiency” of the petition that is to be determined by the auditor (that would be the county auditor – the keeper of voter registration records) is as to the NUMBER of VALID SIGNATURES of registered voters – PERIOD. Has nothing to do with the language of the petition meeting legal parameters for “cause” for recall/removal.

    Otherwise, one could certainly gather enough signatures to recall an elected official – because (for example) he/she “plays politics”, or “isn’t one of US”.

    As the city’s attorney said – the “cause” needs to be specific – dates, times, specific actions that clearly demonstrate one of the 10 valid legal conditions.

    IMHO, not allowing someone to speak on an issue that is either “not on the agenda” during time for public comment, OR in direct relation to the “public comment” portion of a public hearing, OR interrupting a recognized speaker – is perfectly legitimate. That would simply be in maintaining “regular order” of a public meeting. Someone attempting to speak at other times is “out of order”.

    As to an elected officials interacting with groups/individuals at times outside of the performance of their official duties……….. Irrelevant.

  25. Richard, I like that analysis. Stepping beyond the weirdness of one councilor casting two votes for no obvious reason, I can see that the councilors blocking the petition seem to have been ruling on the merits of the specific reason given, not on the facial, legal adequacy of the language on the petition. A minority may submit a petition with really bad reasons for recalling a mayor, but as long as they are specific about those reasons in the petition, they get their recall election. It’s up to the voters to decide the merits of those reasons.

  26. The petitions were presented on Tuesday Nov 10 .. not sure what day the final audit was complete. Haugen related early that the council could be sued by either party and obviously 3 council members and the city attorney decided well ahead of the discussion that it was in their best interest to be sued by the people instead of their quasi-leader Mr Zimmer-Campbell. The tax payer gets to pay all the legal bills on top of being oppressed before, during & after. The real story is the action they took first which was to admit that they had no legal right to video tape the meetings and refuse public access to those tapes. An action that Haugen & Johnson had used the same mumble jumble to push through dragging Mayor appointed Ryan with them and the Mayor broke the tie to keep them hidden, another pattern of oppression and partiality.

  27. FYI Richard Scriever, the meeting in question was a special meeting convened to discuss the work 2 members of the council and reps from the Chamber & HADC had worked out regarding the duties of a new EDD so as to avoid the battle over what his duties were or were not. It was a public meeting with podium for public input. The gentleman who approached the podium to speak in turn , has experience in such positions and was prevented from speaking and threatened with expulsion before he could say anything. It was the relevance of his comments that the Mayor wished to avoid not the irrelevance of them. Mind you, the Mayor’s opinion that night of regular order was his opinions were the only ones and EDD job description should be vague because it was his right to decide when he thought the EDD was doing too much or not enough. Haugen did focus on un-noted names, dates & time as the loophole but no proof that that is a legal excuse and they all had first hand knowledge & tapes of many of the incidents.

  28. Interested Observer

    Richard, it would not be the county auditor. The county has nothing to do with this. The statutes are found in the Code dealing with municipal government, not county government. It seems to me that, as long as the petition contains the requisite number of signatures and is proper in form in that it alleges at least one of the statutorily enumerated grounds for recall (which it did not in the AG Opinion), then the auditor / finance officer, in the exercise of his or her broad discretionary powers (which can go beyond the face of the petition itself according to the case law) acts in their quasi judiciary function of approving the petition and “presenting” it to the governing body / council. The decision on the merits is up to the voters. The recalled mayor is automatically nominated for the election, so ultimately it is up to the electorate to decide with their vote. I disagree that the auditor’s review has nothing to do with the reasons. Those reasons, when added in 1968, were added to the statute that deals with presentation of the petition to the auditor, NOT the acts of the governing body. Even though the legislature added the extra criteria to the statute dealing with the auditor’s responsibility, it did nothing to state that those new criteria were now to be judged by the governing body versus the auditor. The process remains the same. It may not have a great legislative move to not address that, but the legislature did nothing to remove that power from the auditor when it made those 1968 revisions. As I read it, that statute (SDCL 9-13-30) was legislatively addressed or amended in 1939, 1963, 1968, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1992 and 1997, and on none of those occasions, even after the 1983 AG Opinion, did the state legislature make any change to the statute in terms of WHO was to decide the sufficiency of the petition. That certainly indicates a legislative intent to leave that power with the auditor despite the addition of the 10 criteria in 1968. With all due respect to the City Attorney, I disagree with him, and I find it disturbing that, at least in his public comments at the meeting, he did not even mention the controlling precedent of the Supreme Court decisions.

  29. CH,

    I think the principle here is similar to a proxy. For instance, if I own a certain percentage of a company and my wife owns the same percentage, if one of us has a conflict, we can give the other the right to vote for us. Similarly, there are some entities which automatically designate a legal proxy in someone’s absence. In both cases, the person isn’t voting twice but voting once on behalf of him/herself and voting once for the party not in attendance.

    I’m not defending anything here but one could (at least I do) read the law and interpret the law you referenced as a designation to a particular person a legal proxy such the person votes once in their position and once on behalf of the other.

    Personally, I’m on a non-profit board which allows:

    1) Me to designate another person to be my proxy for quorum purposes.
    2) Me to designate another person to vote for me without direction.
    3) Me to designate another person to vote for me with direction on a matter before the governing board.

    Rationale: The entity doesn’t have an executive with broad powers (three managers with distinct duties) so decisions normally made by a singular executive are retained by the governing board. This necessitates many ad hoc decisions with quickly called meetings. This allowance allows the entity to make timely decisions not dependent on people being available on short notice.

  30. larry kurtz

    Shorter Troy: democracy is overrated.

  31. Larry,

    I specifically said I wasn’t defending it. My comment was only to give perspective on what the law might say. What I didn’t say is I can also see why it might have been appropriate for a different time and might have worked in the past without controversy. Personally, I don’t think this is a good policy/procedure in this time and age when teleconference calls, emails, motions approved in lieu of a meeting (might not be appropriate for a public entity), etc.

  32. I’m sure this action was being planned by the Mayor and Bill Haugen when they had lunch at Buffalo Trading Post with the former Mayor last week.

  33. Richard Schriever

    First – I agree fully that the second vote – or tie-breaking vote was not necessary, and inappropriate. Motion failed to win a majority – motion failed.

    The statute (SDCL 9-13-30) says specifically “the auditor”. It does not say “finance officer”, or any other type of city official. While various other statutes designate types of auditors (city or county) as a part of their language, this one does not. Does the City of Hartford have a “city auditor”? If not, my first instinct is to say the statute designates an official “auditor”, who would have ready access to voter roles. Thus – by default the county auditor.

    As to the auditor’s quasi-judicial opinion as to the validity of the reasons presented on the petition – did the “auditor”: in this case present such an opinion? Was that opinion presented in writing? For that matter – who WAS that auditor?

    SD in SD – AG’s 1974 opinion allows any member of the public to electronically record any public meeting – which, BTW, I have done on numerous occasions. Don’t rely on the city councils in this state to make their meetings publically available. Too much happens that’s too ridiculous. By law they only need to publish records of items on the agenda; motions and votes. And for the most part, even that’s usually more to what they really want anyone to know.

  34. Interesting comparison, Troy. That may work for shareholders and private non-profits, but is proxy voting authorized by any statute in any public, governmental setting? Plus, we’re note talking about an ad hoc decision in a quickly called meeting—this was a regular city council meeting. The proxy vote in this case was necessitated not by the inability of the executive to get to the meeting on short notice but by the propriety of the mayor’s recusal from the an issue affecting him personally. If there were an analogous issue facing your non-profit board from which you would have to recuse yourself, would you still be allowed to cast a vote by proxy? Even if the Hartford city attorney is right in his interpretation of SDCL 9-8-7, the fact that the mayor recused himself may annul the ability of anyone to cast a proxy vote for him; essentially, if the proxy vote was cast on behalf of the mayor, the mayor didn’t really recuse himself.

  35. I’ll second Richard’s second observation: the city is allowed but not obliged to publish electronic recordings or verbatim transcripts of meetings.

    On the distinction of auditor and finance officer: I don’t think there is one. At the municipal level, the finance officer is the auditor. SDCL 9-14 lays out auditor duties for the city finance officer. We apparently used to have a statute (SDCL 9-14-1) that explicitly stated, “The governing board of any municipality may, by ordinance of the governing board, combine the duties of the treasurer and auditor/clerk under one officer who shall be known as the municipal finance officer. The municipal finance officer shall perform all the duties of the treasurer and auditor/clerk except where duplicate records are required.” The Legislature repealed that statute in 2011, but someone still has to perform those duties, and the duties of the finance officer (keeping minutes, checking the books, running municipal elections) are pretty clearly those of the auditor.

  36. Richard Schriever

    Well, as per my frequent experiences with SD small town/city governments, this is just another example of how conducting government in proper legal fashion is a rare event.

    A City Council member in Lennox once remarked while trying to deal with a public city land sale/zoning issue, “It’s too complicated!”. My immediate impression is that was more a reflection of the ability of the speaker to deal with complexity, that it was with the actual complexity of the process (which should have been fairly straight-forward and routine.) Left to the somewhat politically motivated machinations of the City Council, the disposal of the property and settlement of the zoning issues has – to date – dragged on for over 2 years, and it’s not done yet. Meanwhile, property owners are unable to develop their land. That means a loss of revenue to the city.

    More likely the truth is in the region of “It takes a full-time professional to properly and legally administer city government.”, vs. a group of part-time amateurs with no pertinent education/training. I see Hartford has a City Administrator. Isn’t it part of that employee’s job description to assure all procedures properly follow laws/ordinances?

    What a mess.

  37. CH,

    First, I’m not defending it.

    1) There are two kind of proxies. A directed proxy where the person instructs the person how to vote and an undirected proxy where the other person is given latitude to do as they please.

    CH: “Even if the Hartford city attorney is right in his interpretation of SDCL 9-8-7, the fact that the mayor recused himself may annul the ability of anyone to cast a proxy vote for him; essentially, if the proxy vote was cast on behalf of the mayor, the mayor didn’t really recuse himself.”

    Unless proxy was directed, the mayor did effectively recuse himself yet allowed the office to express itself via the proxy.

    2) I complicated my point by my example and the use of ad hoc meetings. My point was small entities for a variety of reasons have problems with quorums and thus provide for accommodations such as proxies. The problem of quorum can occur at regular meetings as well (especially if teleconference participation isn’t allowed).

    3) Too often we discover unintended consequences because of controversy and or exceptions to the norm. I don’t like the general or unrestricted idea of public entities having proxies because the office and officeholder are hard to distinguish and shouldn’t be for accountability reasons. At the same time, I get the concept to allow them on a limited basis on routine matters as a vehicle for good and responsive governance. That said, I don’t know how I’d draw the distinction and until I did, I’d oppose the concept.

  38. Whew, Troy, that’s a thin distinction between the mayor himself and the office of. Is that disticntion possible in a situation where citizens are asking for recall of the mayor?

    On small entities: nothing else in statute appears to create a one-man-two-vote exception to allow business to move forward. if only three members of a seven-member board show up, there’s not quorum, and no business happens, period. If the seventh member is absent and the other six are split, there’s no action. Can we find any precedent for what Hartford did?

  39. CH,

    I’m not defending it as I don’t like it. I’m only trying to explain the rationale of proxies. If I get a proxy for another, I’m not voting twice. I’m voting once for myself and once for the other person (or in this case, the office for which it appears in the wording you cite above of a legally designated proxy in the Mayor’s absence. In practice, when a person is voting as proxy they are doing it “in the chair of another” and not for myself.

    I’m not a lawyer so this could be all wet. That said, in general, laws are such that they are usually prohibitions. Thus, in general, if proxies are allowed and the particular application isn’t prohibited, it is likely allowed because they aren’t prohibited. For instance, if by law there isn’t a prohibition for a proxy to be used for quorum, it is allowed.

  40. P.S. I’ll bet they have used proxies for years on other matters. There were no conflicts or appearance of conflict and thus nobody examined the practice. Sometimes a reform comes about because it becomes controversial. Until then, it is unquestioned.

  41. No problem, Troy. I’m just trying to find the statute and/or precedent that would allow proxy voting in municipal council affairs. I’ve never heard of an example. All law governing such councils seems to assume that votes will be cast only by members present and participating in the meeting. We allow teleconference meetings, but the members still have to be actively on the call.

  42. CH,

    I think we have a precedent because it appears to have been done here. I’ll bet a lot of townships and other minor entities do it as well. “Joe” says, “Hey, I got some cows out so I won’t make the meeting so put me down as for fixing the snow plow before winter.” Those who can make it show up at someone’s barn, they do the business, and go back to work. In fact, I saw it happen as a teen in Potter County where a “meeting” happened with no notice and not a formal quorum. Just one township member given proxy to make a decision by the others during harvest.

    There is a loss happening that is important- a distrust of our leaders that is not good. You are guilty of it because your first reaction is to question every action of a Republican. I’m guilty of it as well on the other side. I think we would be better served if both of us first asked “why” giving the other side the benefit of the doubt with regard to motive and then critiquing the action on its merits. Or in this case, using a privilege/power that at minimum has the appearance of an abuse or recusal that wasn’t really an accusal.

    I’m with you on transparency and accountability. But I fear a reaction because of this one occurrence which will have unintended consequences- the rule and procedure will be tightened such that rule and procedure takes precedence over good governance adding to the rancor and lack of trust. Proxies aren’t inherently bad.

  43. larry kurtz

    lol.

  44. Wow, Troy. When I was a kid, my 4-H club ran meetings better than the Hartford City Council. And none of my fellow club members had the audacity to think that, in times when club members had to vote on something, that one of us could use the “vote” of a member who was absent.
    You bringing up (and continuing to “not defend”) the notion of the use of proxy by a city council or any other government board is a bit incredible. Can you cite any example among well-run, organized entities of public government with a packed house of concerned citizens in which a a double vote has ever been used or accepted? Get real. Can you imagine any board member, alderman, county commissioner, legislator, member of Congress, etc. voting twice on the same issue? It’s ridiculous.

  45. Dave,

    1) A proxy isn’t getting to “use the vote” of someone not present. I’ve explained above what it is.
    2) I agree at minimum this was a poor use of a proxy. On the surface based on what I know, I think it an abuse and improper. Just because I’m not piling on the outrage doesn’t mean I am defending it.

    My purpose in commenting is very focused and nothing more should be inferred. A proxy is not inherently bad and a reaction to prohibit them may have unintended consequences that isn’t being contemplated because of the outrage on this single instance.

    Instead of adding fire to the outrage, I would like a non-emotional discussion of proxies, whether they have a place in public entities universally, only certain public entities based on some measure of size or significance (e.g. what is prohibited for a city might be allowed with a small fire district or township), if allowed in what instances and under what procedures. Maybe as I said above, devising the right distinctions might be impossible and they should be banned. But, to know that, we should have a discussion where input is taken from all the entities where they might occur.

    Good governance is the goal. Too loose of procedures leads to abuse. Too strict of procedures leads to un-responsiveness, needing a lawyer at every meeting, and a cumbersome government. The key is to find the right balance and it can be found with discussion not in an context of a single instance filled with outrage.

    P.S. In this particular situation, it appears the public response is correcting what occurred. That to me is a victory that might lessen the need for a reaction, at least without a measured discussion.

  46. Troy, I’m suspicious of corruption and abuse of power by anyone in government. I don’t even know the party affiliations of the characters involved in this Hartford vote. And the Hartford vote doesn’t hinge on the idea of proxy; if it did, the mayor’s recusal would have been fake.

    Robert’s Rules of Order agree with you that we shouldn’t put strict adherence to rules above good governance and advancing the goals of the organization. But when we move from civic associations to governmental bodies, the rule of law needs to be strict. In this particular case, there was no need for a proxy vote to avoid unnecessary roadblocks to vital action. And the idea of “one citizen, one vote” seems to take priority over anything else we’ve said. Even in your examples, you aren’t proposing that one person get to cast to votes. Your concept of proxy allows one person to bring another person’s vote to the meeting in that person’s absence. It does not allow one person the authority to cast a second vote however that person sees fit.

  47. CH,

    I too neither know the politics of the party or of the underlying issue or the merits of any issue involved or people. My comments are specifically to defend the concept of proxies as POTENTIALLY of merit in some political bodies under certain situations and protocol.

    And, in some cases, it could be Person A giving to Person B the authority to vote as Person B discerns is best at the meeting. And in those cases it would not be “corruption or abuse of power” which is thrown around too much.

    There is the maxim that says something like exceptions make bad case law. So it sometimes with reaction to a specific misuse or abuse.

  48. Potentially—yeah, but I’m having trouble finding any instance where we’ve enacted that potential benefit in political affairs. Consider absentee voting: we allow messengers to carry ballots, but we lock the process down with signatures and verifications. We never let anyone walk into a polling booth with two ballots, one for herself and one for poor sick Grandma. We run democracy pretty much on a “those who show up decide” basis. When votes become transferrable, democracy gets shaky.

  49. I don’t disagree with your two sentences. I think this has to be thought about and discussed to make sure we aren’t reacting to one situation.

  50. 96Tears, the Mayor ran unopposed so please do not “blame the people of Hartford.” And if the “concerned citizens” of Hartford are so upset with the choice of Mayor (who I again remind you ran UNOPPOSED) maybe one of those upstanding people should have ran against him.