Mayor Brede suspends council dinner meetings through end of year

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UPDATE: The memo Mayor Brede sent out to city staff on Tuesday informing them that the November and December council dinner meetings have been suspended left one councilman shocked.

Councilman Michael Wojcik says he has made his opinions on the monthly council dinner meetings clear over the years.

“These meetings lack transparency, they offer no agenda, they offer often times, no reasonable place for the public to sit and hear — they offer no recordings of the discussion that took place and they offer no minutes afterwards,” he explains.

Those are some of the reasons he and Councilman Nick Campion have publicly said they think the dinner meetings should end permanently. However, Mayor Brede disagrees, saying in the memo the meetings provide a valuable opportunity to discuss more fully council matters with city staff and the public.

“I still think it’s an important feature, event that we do and it is open to the public even though they will argue that it isn’t,” Brede told us on Wednesday.

He made it clear in his memo that the dinner meetings do not violate open meeting rules. He expressed his disappointment that council members, like Campion and Wojcik, are “publicly boycotting” the meetings, adding that “under the current “”atmosphere” he is suspending the monthly City Council dinner meetings for November and December.

Wojcik tells us he disagrees with not only the message of the memo, but some of the language used in it.

“He wrote that transparency was an overused word, I think that that kind of mentality doesn’t serve local government well, I strongly disagree. I think that transparency is critically important for local government,” Wojcik adds.

That is not the only part of the memo that is stirring up conversation. In the last paragraph, Brede writes: “The dinner meetings do not violate open meeting rules and to “boycott” borders on “pulling a Kaepernick.” I look forward to addressing this matter in 2017.”

“He brought in some unrelated issues that I think bring a racially-charged issue that has been very controversial unnecessarily into this process and I question the wisdom in doing that,” says Wojcik.

We asked Brede about that last paragraph on Wednesday.

“I’m upset about it and so I know it’s different than somebody protesting the National Anthem, absolutely different,” Brede says. “That’s not it, but these are people that are protesting something that I feel is their responsibility.”

In a statement Council Member Nick Campion said:
“Transparency is not something that just happens, you have to build transparent government. I would have preferred a permanent end to the practice, but I welcome the mayor’s decision to suspend the dinner meetings as a step in the right direction. I look forward to leaving dinner meetings in the past and moving forward to tackle other important issues facing our city.”

ROCHESTER, Minn. – Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede made the call to suspend City Council dinner meetings for the rest of the year in a memo sent out to city staff on Tuesday.

In it, Brede makes it clear he is “not pleased” about the announcement.

He says he is “deeply disappointed” that some council members are publicly boycotting the monthly meetings, which are held between the Committee of the Whole and City Council meetings. Brede calls the dinner meetings a “valuable opportunity to discuss more fully council matters with city staff and each other in a setting that is more comfortable.”

But not everyone agrees with that. In fact, councilman Michael Wojcik says he’s been expressing his concern about the dinner meetings for years. Both he and councilman Nick Campion say they are boycotting the meetings because of transparency issues.

“They offer no agenda, they offer often times no reasonable place for the public to sit and hear, they offer no recordings of the discussions that took place and they offer no minutes afterwards,” explains Wojcik.

He also adds that while he doesn’t think there is anything bad happening at these meeting, it might look bad to the public.

“Basically these are the kind of smoke-filled rooms that maybe were OK 50 years ago, but probably we need to get that out of the public process today.”

In the memo, Brede says the dinner meetings do not violate open meeting rules. He says he hopes to revisit the dinner meeting issue in January 2017 when the new council is seated and take a vote. However, Wojcik tells us that he fully intends to bring up the issue at the next council meeting, adding that if he still has Campion’s support, they can force a vote on whether or not to do away with the dinner meetings.

 

Read the entire Memo:
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