Parliamentarian runs City Council meeting

Guest Parliamentarian Tammy Pust presides over the Nov. 17 Lake Elmo City Council meeting. (Erin Hinrichs/Review)
Guest Parliamentarian Tammy Pust presides over the Nov. 17 Lake Elmo City Council meeting. (Erin Hinrichs/Review)

The Lake Elmo City Council has fallen into a rut. The persistent tensions amongst council members — who have been talking out of turn, venting through their body language, and digging up past issues — are inhibiting their ability to hold an effective council meeting as of late.

Looking for a path to better decorum, they have already been consulting with the League of Minnesota Cities and two mediators through the Minnesota Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution.

But the task of resolving long-seated grudges has proven to be rather slow-moving.

In the interim, the council voted to hire a parliamentarian to run the Tuesday, Nov. 17, regular meeting to help everyone rein in on city business inside council chambers.

Before the meeting got underway, interim city administrator Clark Schroeder announced the guest parliamentarian, Tammy Pust, had been hired "in light of well-publicized civility issues that have interfered with the council agenda."

With that introduction, Pust distributed copies of Robert's Rules of Order and took the lead as "madame chair," at the left hand of Mayor Mike Pearson.

New face at the table

Back at the Nov. 4 meeting, council member Julie Fliflet made a motion to hire a parliamentarian to run the council's next regular meeting. The motion passed 3-1-1, with council member Justin Bloyer opposing and Pearson abstaining.

Fliflet posed it as "a positive thing," while Bloyer, who remains under censure, called the move an attempt to "manipulate the system and try and take the legs out from beneath the mayor."

Differences aside, all cooperated with Pust when she asked them to refrain from speaking out of turn, or limited their comments for the sake of moving forward through the agenda.

Pust is a chief judge at the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings. The city hired her through the OAH, at a rate of $120 per hour, to serve as an expert in facilitating community-wide discussions.

She has practiced law for more than 30 years, served on the Roseville City Council for seven years, and does parliamentarian work for the Lutheran Synod when it has assemblies, among other qualifications.

During the first half of the meeting, Pust moved things along without issue as a number of concerned citizens addressed the council on safety concerns regarding the future redesign of Manning Ave.

But familiar theatrics took center stage as the meeting wore on, replete with audible sighs of discontent and animated reactions by those who took offense. And Pust was hardly amused by Bloyer's initial request to have her "regurgitate" his comments directed at Schroeder, per the censure placed on him.

The meeting ended at 11:15 p.m., after the council members discussed their next steps, as far as running future meetings goes.

All agreed things seemed to have run smoother with Pust at the table. A vote to bring Pust back — or a replacement, pending her willingness to come back — passed 3-1-1, with Bloyer in opposition on the grounds "this was done for politics, for theater" and Pearson abstaining.

"There's a certain politeness we offer our guests," Pearson said. "But once that familiarity is established ... those [tend to] fade away. I hope not, in this case."

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.

 

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