In light of the various informative issues that have come up for discussion more recently, I was reminded of the last Irmo Town Council meeting I attended on 7 February 2017.
While at the meeting in question, Councilman Barry Walker Sr contested whether or not the order of agenda items should be allowed to be changed on the Agenda. The general consensus was that it was acceptable. However, upon reflection, I tend to agree with Councilman Walker, as changing the order of Agenda items CAN, DOES and HAS changed how issues can be regarded or voted upon. In certain situations, it certainly appears that this allows for manipulation of the final vote.
A good case in point is in April 2016 when the Mayor had an agenda item tabled. Councilman Walker had been absent from the previous meeting and his stance on the matter was unknown. His vote would have tipped the matter one way or the other. I got the distinct impression that as there was uncertainty as to how the vote would go, changing the order on the Agenda was a good and safe means to an end.
In this instance, an appalling proposed ordinance was passed 4-1 and then the vote on the actual matter got a 2-3 negative vote anyway. What had actually transpired, with some clever and almost imperceptible manipulation is that by changing the order on the Agenda, the Mayor was assured that his proposed Ordinance was first passed/agreed to (and still under his control so to speak), when the actual issue was voted upon, it didn’t really matter what the end vote result was. The proposed Ordinance still took care of business the way it was needed to, if it was needed.
At a meeting prior to the one of which I speak in April 2016, Councilman Barry Walker Sr wanted to change the order of the Agenda items and the Mayor told him that he couldn’t, that they were supposed to follow the order of the Agenda. Sure, it gets voted upon, but these two incidences reminded me how not everything that is voted upon has been free of manipulation and that the results CAN and DO get skewed by changing the order of the Agenda items.
Sure some will argue that the end result would have been the same – if that was the case, why change the order in the first place? Surely there is a process in place that calls for Agenda items prior to the meeting and it is usually common for review of Agenda items and maybe revisions before a final Agenda is placed before the Council for their meeting? This would give members the opportunity to request changes in the proposed agenda or its order before it is adopted for the meeting. If this common practice is employed, why is there any need at all to change the order of Agenda Items at Irmo Town Council meetings?
We have seen over the years – and continue to witness, how individual council members are blocked and frustrated at not being able to get items onto the agenda. At best, they hope for the next elections to bring the tides of change. Sadly the joy at these changes is short-lived, as power struggles and personal vendettas continue to get in the way of the job of representing ALL citizens of Irmo, not just a select few.
The Mayor, as the presiding officer, manages the meeting with the assistance of an Agenda – whoever would’ve thought that there could be cut and thrust just from the order in which Agenda items are listed?