The City of Marion Common Council voted unanimously to table the six spending cap ordinances after a spirited public hearing.

If passed, the spending ordinances would require city administration to come before the city council with any expenditure that exceeds $5,000, although there are a few exceptions. Though the council proposed six unique ordinances, each public member was allotted three minutes to speak on all of the ordinances.

The first member of the public to speak was Karen Arland, an attorney that specializes in municipal law.

Before Arland began to speak, Council president Deb Cain asked Arland how much money the administration was paying her to speak that night.

“I just have a concern,” Cain said. “We have legal counsel in the city that’s paid $90,000 a year, and we have to pay legal counsel outside of the city to come speak?”

Mayor Jess Alumbaugh said the city was paying her.

“You wanted to hear how these resolutions were insufficient,” Alumbaugh said. “She’s going to tell you.”

Cain said the council had asked for a written document with the information.

“It’s a public hearing,” Alumbaugh said. “It’s time to let the public know.”

Councilman Mike Cline said he was “ready, willing and able” to listen to Arland and take notes on what she has to say.

Councilwoman Robin Fouce said the situation was a great example of what some of the council members are talking about regarding spending money on additional legal counsel.

City attorney Tom Hunt addressed Fouce’s statement, saying, “I’m like your family doctor. You go to your family doctor for a wellness check, your vaccines, to tell them your knee hurts, whatever it is. If it’s a specific issue that he is incapable of handling because he is a family doctor, what does he do?”

Fouce responded, “I’m sure you’ll let me know. My family doctor would talk to a specialist and know how to repeat and disseminate that information to me.”

Hunt said someone with a specific issue would see a specialist.

“That’s what Ms. Arland has for us tonight. She’s the foremost municipal law expert in the Midwest,” Hunt said. “I would hope that she would have the courtesy of that explanation.”

Arland explained that she had been practicing municipal law for 40 years, served as an assistant city attorney for the City of Indianapolis for six years, and is currently a partner at Kennedy Downs & Arland law firm in Carmel, IN.

“I am not the family doctor,” Arland said.

Arland said she would like to address each of the six ordinances, beginning with the ordinance regarding the Cumulative Capital Development Fund. Arland said the council has not done the correct process to amend the ordinance, which includes receiving the approval from the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF).

“(The council) did not comply with the statutory prerequisites,” Arland said. “You do not have a valid ordinance to submit to the DLGF.”

Arland began speaking about the second ordinance, but Cain said her three minutes were up.

Councilwoman Annalisa Stodghill-Weeks asked if the council would allow Arland to continue speaking, but Cain said that the council would then have to allow all members of the public to speak for more than three minutes.

“I did indicate that I wanted to address each of the ordinances,” Arland said.

Alumbaugh asked if Arland could have three minutes to speak on each ordinance, but Cain said the public hearing was for all six ordinances combined.

Cain said Arland did not define what the council was doing wrong, and Arland asked if Cain would like her to address that.

Councilman Brad Luzadder said the council would accept the answer in writing, and Fouce agreed.

“I would love to hear what she has to say,” Stodghill-Weeks said. “We’re worried about the money being spent on attorneys, yet she’s here and we’re going to make her come back for another meeting or submit things in writing. She’s here, why can we hear her out tonight?”

Councilman Steve Henderson said the administration should have asked to put her on the agenda.

“That’s really disrespectful,” Henderson said. “That’s the rules. Are we going to break our own rules and let someone go on? No. This is the problem. Nobody wants to listen to the rules. Nobody wants to follow the rules.”

Hunt suggested that the city council table the ordinances, let Arland respond, consider her response, and come back at a later date to work out the issues.

Councilman Mike Cline made a motion.

“With the idea of transparency on both sides, I move we table these six things, work together, get them worked out like everybody seems to say they want them to be, and then put them back on the agenda,” Cline said.

Brunner seconded.

“That was not a motion,” Cain responded.

Fouce claimed Cline was out of order.

“We’re in the middle of a public hearing,” Fouce said. “We need to continue our public hearing.”

Cline made the motion again. Brunner seconded. Council members Luzadder, Fouce, Cain, Brian Cowgill and Henderson voted no. Stodghill-Weeks, Brunner, Gary Fordyce, and Cline voted yes. The motion was voted down 5-4, and the public hearing continued.

Community member Richard Hart shared a neutral stance, stating that the council and administration should find a different way to have more communication about the spending.

Community member Jan Bowen said she had met with city controller Julie Flores to talk through the ordinances and believes that the ordinances are meant to allow the council to re-approve spending after the council has already approved the budget.

“All you’re doing is creating inefficiency,” Bowen said “You are showing them that you don’t trust them to do what you already approved for them to do. The whole process seems to be out of kelter. It’s like you want to refix a problem that isn’t broken.”

Marion Police Department Chief Angela Haley requested to yield her time to Arland.

Arland stated that two of the ordinances, 15-2021 and 18-2021, can be easily fixed with minimal revised language and additional public hearing, notice and opportunity for objection to comply with the state law.

According to Arland, the other ordinances are contrary to the separation of powers doctrine, “Which underlies our entire democratic framework from the United States constitution on down,” Arland said.

Community member Cindy Cunningham also asked to yield her time to Arland.

“We can’t do this all night,” Cain responded.

“It’s my time,” Cunningham said. “I would like to hear what she has to say.”

Cain said the public would have access to Arland’s written statement before the third hearing, which would take place if the ordinances had passed in Tuesday’s meeting.

Linda Wilk, a member of the Marion Board of Works (BOW), also stated that she would like to hear what the attorney had to say.

“Tonight is when you’re probably going to make a vote, and so if you want to be completely informed and make sure that we’re completely informed, I would like to hear what she has to say,” Wilk said.

Wilk then stated that she opposed the ordinances, and wanted to acknowledge the administration, specifically Flores, for taking the city from a $4.2 million deficit in the insurance fund to a balance of almost $1,000,000.

David Cain, former council president and the husband of Deb Cain, and Henry Smith, another former council member, talked favorably of the ordinances, stating that they both believed there were spending issues for many years when they served on the council.

Smith said the money from the Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) were supposed to go to law enforcement, but were instead spent on “the courts.”

Flores addressed Smith’s claim, stating that she had the minutes from that meeting and it was never mentioned that it would be spent on law enforcement, though late councilman Don Batchelor was adamant that the money should buy body cameras.

Flores also addressed a comment made by Fouce earlier in the meeting.

“It was said that the controller was not cooperative,” Flores said. “I would like it to be on record that I have always been cooperative and have always told everyone that they can come to my office. I have always had an open door policy.”

Flores said every bill approved by the BOW is public record.

“We don’t try to hide anything,” Flores said.

In regards to one of the ordinances regarding the insurance fund, Flores said employees are now self insured, unlike when the original ordinance was written.

“The way this is written, you would ask us to transfer $5.1 million of the general fund in January,” Flores said. “Unfortunately we don’t have $5.1 million in January. If we did that, we wouldn’t be able to operate until we got another tax draw. This just doesn’t work.”

Regarding the ordinance amending the rainy day fund, Flores said she had tried in previous years to transfer money into the fund.

“Our financial advisers have advised us that you need to have at least 50 percent cash reserves before you can transfer to the rainy day fund,” Flores said. “I know this because I had asked to transfer to the rainy day fund and they said we did not have enough reserves. This will not work.”

Lynn Johnson, a previous councilwoman, spoke in favor of the ordinances.

Cain then called for a five-minute recess. When she returned from the recess, Cain said she decided to table the ordinances until the council could meet with administration and Arland on Jan 18.

“Point of order then, are you now unilaterally doing what we voted down 5 to 4 to do earlier tonight?” Cline said.

Cain ignored Cline’s comment and said, “I’ll take a vote.”

“There is not a motion,” Cline said.

“Why don’t you make the motion then?” Fouce said. “Since you’re calling it up, we will receive your motion.”

Cain made the motion, Fouce seconded, and the vote passed unanimously.

When asked what changed her vote, Fouce stated that she “had a change of heart” during the meeting when Hunt offered to meet with the council while standing next to Arland. However, Hunt made the statement before the first motion was made by Cline.

Cowgill said he voted no the first time because he didn’t want to stop the discussion and public hearing. However, the public hearing was stopped by Cain’s motion to table the ordinances.

The council, administration and Arland will have a public meeting on Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers to discuss what changes need to be made to the ordinances.

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