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Hyattsville's New Council Deadlocked on Executive Officers

Mayor Marc Tartaro declined to cast the tie-breaking vote on executive committee motion.

At its first meeting, Hyattsville's new City Council, with couldn’t agree upon who should work with Tartaro on the board’s executive committee.

Council members Matthew McKnight (Ward 3) and Paula Perry (Ward 4) were both nominated for the spot of council president, but the council was unable to make a choice and decided to table the matter until its May 23 meeting.

McKnight has been in office since 2009 and Perry since 1999.

On the previous council, Tartaro was president and William Tierney, who lost his Ward 2 seat to Shani Warner, served as vice president.

Here’s the rundown of how the council voted:

McKnight Perry Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5) X Carlos Lizanne (Ward 4) X Matthew McKnight (Ward 3) X Candace Hollingsworth (Ward 1) X Shani Warner (Ward 2) X Tim Hunt (Ward 3) X Nicole Hinds-Mofor (Ward 5) X Paula Perry (Ward 4) X David Hiles (Ward 2) X

Municipal rules require that there be at least six votes for someone to be named to this office. With one open Ward 1 spot – a special election will be held this summer to fill this spot, which became vacant when Tartaro won the mayor’s race – there were only nine voters. McKnight got six and Perry took four.

Tartaro stated before this motion that he would abstain from casting his vote in this situation because he believed it should be left up to the council who represents them on the executive committee.

Normally, when the council is deadlocked, Hyattsville’s mayor casts the tie-breaking vote. However, the mayor is not required to cast a vote on any motions.

When nothing was resolved, Tartaro asked if anyone would consider changing their vote. Receiving no responses, he asked the council if they wanted to take two minutes and talk outside the council chambers to see if they could come to a resolution.

At that point, Perry and McKnight decided to speak out of earshot, but still no resolution was found and the decision to table the vote was made.

Sarah Nemeth May 18, 2011 at 09:31 PM
I should clarify something here, guys: City Clerk Doug Barber said during the meeting that they needed six votes for this. Some council members agreed. Mr. Barber may know something that we don't? Thanks, Sarah
Chris Currie May 18, 2011 at 10:02 PM
One thing he may know is that the City Clerk is now the designated parliamentarian for the Council. It seems that he is now acting in that capacity, although, up until I left the Council four years ago, the City Attorney functioned as parliamentarian. (Neither, by the way, are specifically granted that function by the Charter.) Since the Charter requires six votes for the passage of legislation, I suspect most just assumed that it would apply to elections as well. But the Charter doesn't stipulate that. You need to look to other Council-enacted policies for guidance. As far as I know, the Council has never enacted a rule that six votes are required to elect a Council officer. Also, as far as I know, the Council has never repealed Roberts Rules of Order as the guide to parliamentary procedure when the Charter or other Council-enacted rules don't apply. It's indeed possible there is something Mr. Barber or others know about that I don't, but I'd like to see a citation to the legislation.
Sarah Nemeth May 18, 2011 at 10:52 PM
Hmmm...thanks Chris for that insight! When I was sitting there, I remember Mayor Tartaro saying that he believed he shouldn't cast his vote on this motion -- that he should use it as a tie-breaker in "legislative" situations, but not here. So, I'm not sure what the thought process was behind this. I'll give a call over to City Hall tomorrow and see if I can sort it out ;-) Did you get your "I Am Hyattsville" T-shirt yet?
Chris Currie May 18, 2011 at 11:05 PM
No, I didn't -- although I did see Mayor Tartaro modeling one at the HPA dinner last Sunday and I couldn't resist teasing him: "Is that the English translation of 'L'etat, c'est moi!'"? ;-)
Shani May 19, 2011 at 02:41 AM
Interesting!

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