An effort by a member of a recently formed group of Chadron business people and residents to address the city council regarding the Oct. 4 election on the recall of Mayor John Chizek and vice-mayor Steve Duncan was abruptly halted Tuesday when council member Levi Grant objected to the remarks.
"There is nothing in my tab about a statement," Grant said when Morrie Carnahan, of the group People for Positive Growth, began addressing remarks to another group, called Concerned Citizens of Chadron, about the recall. "If we are going to involve another group, they have a right to know what's coming down so they can rebuttal it," Grant said.
The issue arose after Karyn Snook, another member of People for Positive Growth, gave a short presentation on the group and its aims. "We want to bring positive growth and ideas to Chadron...and create a positive environment for visitors and businesses," said Snook. Information about the group is available on a Facebook page under people for positive growth, she added.
Carnahan addressed his remarks to the Concerned Citizens group, which pressed the council for an investigation into the actions of City Manager Sandy Powell and has been critical of the actions of Chizek and Duncan. Some recently erected signs urging voters to recall the two men are creating a false impression by using the positive growth theme, Carnahan said. "Our group is not part of that. Somebody else is playing on our established name," he said.
When Carnahan continued with a comment about the recall itself, however, Grant interrupted. Allowing the statement to continue, without an opportunity for the other group to respond would be unfair, Grant said, and the agenda did not give notice that the statement would be directed to them.
That led to a discussion among council members and attorney Joe Stecher, who was sitting in for city attorney Adam Edmund, regarding how much agenda information is available to the public. Policies regarding the setting of the council agenda have been contentious since the beginning of the year, with Grant openly critical of the procedure used to set the agenda, and of decisions to not allow citizens to present certain items at council meetings.
An agenda book prepared for each council member contains background material in addition to the basic statement of the items on the agenda. But council members were unsure how much of the information in their packets is also available to the general public.
Stecher suggested that in general items prepared for the council members should not be released prior to the meeting. "A better practice is not to distribute anything until it becomes public record," he said.
Most of the information in the council member's "packet' is public record, noted City Clerk Donna Rust. "It would be very hard to keep all of this information secret until the time of the council meeting," she said.
The agenda issue remained unresolved, however, and Carnahan said his group would return to the council with a statement.
But resident Jim Wilburn, a credentialed parliamentarian, said the election issue shouldn't come before the council. "In my opinion, political activities are not city business and should not be handled in the city council," he said. "This is for city business and not for who should be elected to the council."