Reaction to this week's which had to be adjourned after the council failed to approve an agenda, has spread to a local listserv where residents and elected officials are discussing the causes and implications of an apparent breakdown in council decorum.
The discussion was started by city resident Bart Lawrence, also president of the Hyattsville Elementary School Parent Teacher Association. On March 21, he sent out a message to the HOPE in Hyattsville community listserv critical of the deadlock. He also addressed perceived causes of the impasse, pointing out that the meeting could have been saved if not for one tardy and three absent city council members who could have cast crucial deciding votes to advance the meeting.
"We are witnessing a total failure by our elected body, but the blame is not shared equally," wrote Lawrence, who also criticized Mayor Marc Tartaro's leadership of the city council. "Our mayor has demonstrated an inability to treat council members with an equal amount of respect and courtesy, and we have council members who are regularly absent from meetings or arrive obviously unprepared."
During the last six months, according to data compiled by Lawrence, Councilor Carlos Lizanne (Ward 4) has been the most absent member of city council, missing 12 meetings out of 29, eight of them since the start of the year. Councilor Paula Perry (Ward 4) had the second highest number of absences, missing nine meetings. Perry noted that her absences were the result of a doctor's orders. Their combined absences meant that Ward 4 residents went without representation at five meetings in the last six months.
Councilor Eric Wingaurd (Ward 1) had the third highest number of absences, missing eight meetings over the last six months.
Hyattsville's city charter is explicit about absences. If a council member misses more than 50 percent of each of the council's regular and special sessions in a year they can be removed from office with a two-thirds supermajority of the city council.
Former Ward 1 Councilor Chris Currie took issue with how Mayor Tartaro forced votes to remove items from the consent agenda, a list of normally non-controversial items which are voted on together, on Monday night. when those who wanted the item removed failed to approve the meeting agenda.
"There is no vote required to move an item from consent to action," wrote Currie. "Why, at this point in time, the mayor decided to change council procedure, and why a majority of council did not call him on it, is the mystery that seems not to have been solved yet."