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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Debate over city attorney

Role, attendance evaluated by council


February 21, 2019 | View PDF

The City Council debated the role of the city attorney in council meetings at their regular meeting Tuesday night. It was a followup to the council’s discussion at a special workshop last month.focusing on how often the city attorney would meetings.

On Tuesday night, Todd Leishman, of the firm Best Best & Krieger, representing the City Attorney’s office. During discussion, different options were put forth to the City Council to address the situation. One scenario had the city attorney attending every council meeting, no matter the agenda, including closed sessions. Councilmember Cathy Prout said that she did not see a problem with the city attorney appearing at meetings that the council deemed necessary, which has been the practice in the past. Councilmember Manual Garcia repeated his comments from the workshop last month. “I would like the attorney at every meeting, including closed sessions and strategy sessions,” he said.

Discussion followed evaluating the importance of the city attorney being in attendance at every meeting. It was then agreed that there was not a need for the city attorney to be at every meeting, if there was nothing on the agenda that would require his presence.

Another option put before the council by City Manager Scott Hurlbert was to have the council discuss and decide if and when it would be necessary for the city attorney to attend, based on the agenda. Council members seemed to look at this idea positively.

Councilmember Garcia mentioned that he would like the city attorney in attendance during strategic planning sessions. “Say, if we had a discussion about plans for city, and prioritizing those projects, we would like to have them there to witness the discussion.”

Mayor Gilbert Alvarado said that he thought what councilmember was saying was that they would be listening to the discussion, as they decide how to prioritize the projects and issues.

Hurlbert responded: “If it is a discussion of naming priority during the sessions, it is a nonissue because myself and my staff are there to give advice and explain procedure, but ultimately, we do not have a say when it comes to prioritizing and setting plans in strategic sessions. It is the City Council who has the final say in what plans are set for the City of Shafter, so there would never be a situation where this would happen.”

It was thought by the council that the best option would be to review the agenda and decide if the city attorney would need to attend. Mayor Alvarado did have one other question. He said, “I would rather have it read that the mayor, instead of the entire council, would discuss with the city manager about the need for the city attorney to attend.”

They left it that the city manager and the mayor will discuss the agenda and deem it necessary or not for the appearance of the city attorney to attend the meeting. They would then notify the rest of the council individually of their decision.

The council also considered Board Compensation procedures that have been implemented now that the council is receiving compensation for their service. It was explained to the council that they had a couple of options to choose from. If a councilmember decides to accept their monthly stipend, which began in January, the member would be able to be reimbursed for any expenses they accrue during the month, but the money would have to be claimed and is taxable. If they decide not to accept the monthly stipend, they would be reimbursed, and it would not be taxable income. The decision is for each member to make individually.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, several residents spoke out on the city’s plans to find additional sites to install basketball courts for the public to use. Kathy Enns, a longtime Shafter resident, said: “I love Mannel Park, and with the possibility of the city adding basketball courts to the park, I am afraid we would lose our beloved park as we know it.”

The possibility of contacting the high school also was discussed. The high school has several basketball courts on site, which are not open to the public. It was suggested by the group of residents that maybe the school could open the courts to the public, instead of the city having to pay for new courts when there are existing courts that are not being utilized.

Mayor Alvarado suggested forming a committee to study the feasibility of finding additional space for basketball courts or putting to use courts that already exist. It was decided that further discussion is needed and research done to put together the best scenario for the city and its residents.

Lynda Martin of American Refuse told the council they planned to hold a bulky waste event, allowing the residents of Shafter to dispose of items such as appliances and furniture at no charge. Martin also said that they are in the planning stages of a Communitywide Clean Up modeled after the City of Wasco’s events held semiannually, where the entire community gets involved, with students, clubs and community organizations all coming together to clean up the city. Trash bags, gloves, and other supplies are provided, and the groups go throughout the city picking up trash in streets, alleyways and vacant lots. More details would be upcoming, Martin said.


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