Most governments use consent agendas to streamline the approval of routine business and the Laramie City Council is no exception. But recently, the city began using the consent agenda to a greater extent, Mayor Andi Summerville said.
“We know that when we have to stay after 10 p.m., that’s not the best time to be making major decisions that affect the residents of the city of Laramie,” Summerville said. “So we want to be efficient with our time as we can.”
After consulting with Laramie City Attorney Bob Southard, the council added two items to the list of approved consent agenda topics.
“The two items that got added were board and commission appointments and third readings of ordinances,” Summerville said. “In both of those cases, those are items we have seen traditionally … that we don’t have a lot of discussion or any discussion about.”
Any councilor, however, can request an item be moved from the consent agenda to the regular agenda, she said. While members of the public typically do not have an opportunity to speak at a City Council regular meeting before the consent agenda is approved, Summerville said anyone can view the agenda a few days prior to the meeting and contact their local councilor to request a consent item be moved to the regular agenda.
“There is a difference between public comment as an idea and public comment as a line item on the agenda,” she explained. “Public comment as the idea is we provide multiple ways for the public to comment on everything including the consent agenda.”
In addition to calling and emailing councilors, Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan said the council also hosts a public forum prior to the council’s regular meeting in which members of the public can ask the councilors to move an item from consent to the regular agenda.
Crafting the council’s agenda begins with city staff making recommendations for regular and consent agenda items, which councilors review during the work session prior to the meeting.
After the councilors review the agenda, the mayor and city staff meet to discuss any changes before publishing the agenda on the city’s website, www.cityoflaramie.org, on the Thursday before a regular meeting.
“What goes on the council’s consent agenda is a tradition cultivated over the years and modified by councilors’ specific recommendations,” Summerville said.
Currently, the City Council code of conduct dictates the council can only add approvals of license applications and bonds, resolutions, approvals of payments of contracts under $100,000, bid and contract awards under $100,000 and third readings of ordinances.
“They’re typically not policy-level decisions,” Jordan said. “Unless it is a third reading of an ordinance and the council isn’t anticipating any discussion.”
The City Council is responsible for approving the contracts of three city staff positions — the city manager, municipal court judge and city attorney.
On Jan. 16, the consent agenda included a contract for the city manager valued at more than $100,000, but Summerville said the council has used the consent agenda to approve internal contracts for years.
“The council’s traditional way to handle the council contracts has been on the consent agenda,” she said. “Specific to the contract approved (on Jan. 16) there was no substantive changes. It was all legal cleanup of that contract.”
Jordan said she’s seen the council handle personnel contracts on both the regular and consent agenda throughout the years, but currently, the reference to the $100,000 contract in the code of conduct has been interpreted to apply specifically to funds paid to external contractors.
“Last week, we had a resident that wanted to make comments on a consent agenda item, so we put it on the regular agenda,” Summerville said. “That’s exactly how that process is supposed to work. But there is no rule that says the public has to wait until a contract renewal to come and tell us there is a problem they perceive with any of the three (city attorney, city manager or municipal judge) contracts we approve.”
Despite council moving the item from the consent agenda to the regular agenda, she said the resident did not make a prior request to move the item from the consent agenda to the regular agenda.
“As mayor, I think it’s a reasonable conversation to have about whether the council wants to put a line item on the agenda allowing comment on consent agenda items before the approval of the consent agenda,” she said. “I certainly, as mayor, want to be as open and transparent as possible, and give the public every opportunity to make a comment. We want the public to be engaged in the process of governing our community.”