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Chowchilla City Council updates rules of procedure

Charles Doud/The Madera Tribune
Chowchilla City Council members discuss an update of Rules of Procedure before passing it Tuesday night. From left are Council Member Ray Barragan, Mayor Dennis Haworth, Council Member Mary Gaumnitz and Council Member Waseem Ahmed.


As part of its efforts to improve its services to citizens, the City Council of Chowchilla on Tuesday approved rules of procedure for the conduct of the council and all other local agencies for which members of the City Council serve as governing body.


According to the written agenda for the Tuesday meeting, “It is customary for cities to regularly update existing Rules of Procedure in an effort to maintain compliance with California law and to resolve procedural questions that may have arisen.


“To that end, the City Council assigned Mayor Dennis Haworth and Council Member Waseem Ahmed to serve on an ad hoc committee to review and make changes to a proposed draft of Rules of Procedure proposed by staff.


A sample of some of the rules that were updated:


Chowchilla City Council: Powers and Responsibilities of the City Council generally — “The powers of a City Council in California to establish policy are quite broad. Essentially, councils may undertake any action related to city affairs other than those forbidden or preempted by state or federal law. Specifically, the Council shall have the power, in the name of the city, to do and perform all acts and things appropriate to a municipal corporation and the general welfare of its inhabitants and which are not specifically forbidden by the Constitution and laws of the United State of America and State of California (California Government Code).


It is important to note that the Council acts as a body. No member has any extraordinary powers beyond those of other members.


“While the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem have some additional ceremonial and administrative responsibilities as described below, in the establishment of policies, voting and in other significant areas, all members are equal. It is also important to note that policy is established by at least a majority vote of the Council. While individual members may disagree with decisions of the majority, a decision of the majority does bind the Council to a course of action.


In turn, it is staff’s responsibility to ensure the policy of the Council is upheld. Actions of staff to pursue the policy direction established by a majority of Council do not reflect any bias against Council Members who held a minority opinion on an issue.


Limitations are imposed on a Council Member’s ability to serve on appointed boards of the city. State law expresses that no member of the Council shall serve as a voting member of any city board, committee or commission, such as the Planning Commission...


The City Council appoints two positions within the city organization: the City Administrator and Police Chief.


Both positions serve at the will of the City Council. The City Administrator and the Police Chief are  employees of the City and have employment agreements that specify certain terms of employment. The City Administrator is responsible for all other personnel appointments within the City.


Note that both appointed advisory bodies and ad hoc committees are usually subject to the open-meetings laws commonly known as the Brown Act. A complete list of these advisory bodies and committees are maintained by the City Clerk. There is one exception to subcommittees being subject to the Brown Act: ad hoc advisory committees consisting of less than a quorum of members of the governing body and with the following conditions:


(1) the committee must be purely an advisory committee with no decision making authority; (2) the committee must be composed solely of less than a quorum of members of the governing body; (3) the committee must not have continuing subject matter jurisdiction; and (4) the committee must not have a meeting schedule fixed by formal action of the governing body.


City Administrator attendance: The City Administrator shall attend all meetings of the Council unless excused. In his/her absence, the City Administrator shall designate a substitute. The City Administrator may make recommendations and have the right to take part in all discussion of the Council when recognized by the Mayor to do so, but shall have no vote.


City Attorney attendance: The City Attorney shall attend all meetings of the Council unless excused. In his/her absence, the City Attorney shall designate a substitute. The City Attorney shall give opinions, either written or oral, on questions of law and shall act as the Council’s parliamentarian.


City Clerk attendance: The City Clerk shall attend all meetings of the Council unless excused. In his/her absence, the City Administrator shall designate the Deputy City Clerk as the substitute. The City Clerk shall prepare and post the agenda, record, prepare and maintain the official record of the Council, and perform other related duties as prescribed by the Council and/or City Administrator.


All meetings of the City Council (except closed sessions authorized by State law) shall be open to the public. No member of the public may be required, as a condition to attendance at a Council meeting, to register his or her name, to provide other information, to complete a questionnaire, or otherwise to fulfill any other condition precedent to his/her attendance.


Meeting place and times: Regular meetings, held at City Hall, in Council Chambers, at 130 S. Second Street, begin at 6 p.m. for closed sessions on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Open sessions begin at 7 p.m.


Agendas for all City Council meetings are posted at least 72 hours prior to the meeting at the Civic Center, 130 S. Second St. Written communications from the public for the agenda must be received by Administrative Services no less than seven days prior to the meeting date.