Questions remain about Mayor’s actions after Carthage Special Called Meeting

June 8, 2021

The Carthage City Council met for a special called meeting at city hall on June 7, 2021, for “First reading, discussion, and vote on an ordinance regarding sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages on public property.”

Prior to the start of the meeting, the council met to conduct a budget workshop for next year’s budget. All six members of the city council and Mayor Smith were present. During the start of the meeting, Councilman Ebel motioned to let citizens speak about the ordinance; however, Mayor Smith did not recognize this motion. There was some back and forth between Mayor Smith and Councilman. Councilman Ebel motioned to suspend the rules to allow citizens to speak with a second by Councilman Petty. Mayor Smith stated that they needed to “double-check” about allowing citizens to speak since it was a special called meeting “with a different set of rules.” The city council has formally adopted Robert’s Rules of Order for parliamentary procedure. Councilman Ebel again challenged the mayor and asked her to provide documentation for her rulings. The mayor announced a “quick adjournment” and left the room for approximately seven minutes before returning. The council made no motion or vote on an adjournment or recess for this break.

After Mayor Smith returned, she stated that she had “to hear a motion to approve this ordinance.” Councilman Peters made a motion to approve with a second by Councilman Kannapel. Councilman Ebel challenged Mayor Smith. The mayor at one point referred to the present individuals as “your[Councilman Ebel’s] friends.”

As the discussion continued about whether to allow citizens to speak, one privileged motion for suspension of the rules and two main motions were on the table simultaneously. [Editor’s Note: Robert’s Rules of Order does not allow for multiple main motions to be on the table at the same time, nor may a privileged motion to suspend the rules be debated or amended]. A suspension of the rules to allow citizens to speak was passed verbally with no nay votes from the council.

During the citizen’s speaking portion, a resident stated his belief in Mayor Smith’s broken campaign promises, the benefits and safety/security measures of the River City Ball, and that the city’s citizens should vote on the ordinance. [Editor’s Note: It is unclear if a referendum would be allowed under state law for this ordinance, as municipal referendums are permitted under limited situations. The University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) has a resource on what municipal referendums are allowed.]

Another resident raised questions over the handling of the council in regard to the ordinance. A third citizen asked if a public hearing would be required if a second reading was needed for this ordinance. Mayor Smith answered that a public hearing was not necessary for the nature of this ordinance.

Mayor Smith continued to engage and discuss with various present individuals about the ordinance. During this discussion, a resident questioned why the River City Ball’s request for a special event permit for next year’s event in 2022 was tabled by the mayor from the May meeting until the June meeting when a special meeting was given for this ordinance to potentially allow it to pass very quickly. The town’s charter states that a special meeting may be called by the mayor “when in his[the mayor’s] judgment the good of the town requires it.”

Mayor Smith stated “I am calling that we table this until Thursday night” while facing questions from the council and individuals present. She then attempted to adjourn the meeting without a motion or vote. When questioned about improperly adjourning the meeting, she stated, “Yes, I can. Look at Robert’s Rules.” When challenged by Councilman Ebel, she banged the gavel and ruled him out of order, as had been done multiple times during the meeting. Councilman Petty stated, “I’m going to take that gavel away if you don’t quit that.” Councilman Babcock then made a Call to Order that was seconded by Councilman Petty. This motion passed unanimously. A motion to adjourn by Councilman Babcock and seconded by Councilman Petty passed unanimously.

[Editor’s Note: The mayor’s attempt to adjourn the meeting without a motion or vote appears to be inappropriate based upon Robert’s Rules of Order. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, a meeting may be adjourned without a motion and vote under limited circumstances. These include reaching an adopted time for adjournment, when the end of an agenda has been reached, or when there is a physical danger to the body. The chair may adjourn a meeting if there is no further business; however, the mayor did not attempt to adjourn the meeting in this manner. The mayor’s power to adjourn the meeting in the tried fashion does not appear to comply with Robert’s Rules of Order as the chair of the body, the mayor, in this case, does not have authority to adjourn at their discretion for any reason.]

The next meeting of the Carthage City Council will take place on Thursday, June 10, at 6:00 PM at the Smith County Chamber of Commerce.

You may watch the full special called meeting below:

Thanks to Smith County Animal Clinic for sponsoring Smith County Insider’s live broadcast of this meeting.

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The Carthage City Council normally meets at 6:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at Carthage City Hall, located at 314 Spring Street in Carthage, Tennessee – 37030.

All meetings are open to the public and streamed live at https://www.facebook.com/smithcountyinsider/.