By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — After an item was removed from the agenda in a second straight meeting, residents became frustrated with how the city council handles its meetings.
Councilman Dennis Hayes wanted to address the Police and Fire departments’ overtime costs during the Sept. 10 meeting and again at the meeting Tuesday. During the Tuesday meeting, Mayor William Matakas used Robert’s Rules of Order to remove the agenda item.
“Emergency Manager Joyce Parker is not present at the meeting to defend any claims made by any council member,” he said.
Residents addressed their frustrations with the “lack of transparency” by the council. Allen Park resident Ray McGusson said he attends council meetings regularly and questioned why the council would approve an agenda item, publish the agenda, then remove the item from the agenda in front of residents.
“Why won’t you just allow city council members to voice their opinions?” he said. “This item has been taken off the agenda for the second meeting in a row. You all said when you ran that (the council) should be more transparent. So, please, be more transparent.”
Allen Park resident Robert Turner agreed with McGusson on the city’s transparency issues. He said he was troubled because he was not even sure if the council is getting the necessary information.
He said the city seems to be losing a lot of transparency with its residents and understands Parker is in control of the city and approves overtime.
“I’m not even sure if it is any of our business if and how the Police and Fire (departments) are getting overtime,” Turner said. “But we would like to know what is going on because there is clearly an issue here and (Hayes) would like to talk about it.”
Another resident, Donna Daniel, addressed the council and said Hayes bringing up an issue he saw with the departments’ overtime is a good thing, but it is necessary to hear both sides of the issue.
“I’m glad you are bringing it up, but I agree the issue has to be held back,” she said. “Everyone’s upset, but it needs to be addressed by the emergency manager.”
Councilors are given five minutes to duscuss any topic during their final comments to the public. Most of the council defended the mayor’s decision, but Hayes used that time to address his concerns about the overtime.
“I don’t think Ms. Parker needs to be here to hear me say that the Fire Department is over their budgeted overtime by 103 percent and the police department has consumed 76 percent of their budget already in the two months of this fiscal year, ” he said.
Councilwoman Tina Gaworecki said the council is not trying to keep anything from the residents. The questions about overtime should be addressed in a work session by the council, she said, and brought to the residents in a “uniform manner” with the emergency manager present because she has the final decision.
Both Councilmen Henry Sisko and Bob Keenan said the council should wait to address any issue until all parties are present at a meeting before “undefended claims” are thrown around because not everyone had the information in front of them. Sisko said that idea is “egregious” and the council should give anyone a chance to defend themselves.
(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at [email protected])