Brent Batten: Reconsidering effectiveness of reconsideration

There was a running joke at Tuesday's Collier County Commission meeting.

Some would argue the commission itself is a running joke, but that's another topic.

Commissioners used the parliamentary tactic of reconsideration so often Tuesday that it became amusing and confusing, even to them.

Commissioners voted yes when they meant to vote no, resorted to making mock motions to reconsider noncontroversial items and suggested a blanket motion so that everything could be reconsidered at once to save time.

But the biggest joke of all is that none of it is likely to matter.

The reconsideration tactic, in theory, works like this: Once an item is approved by the commission it's a done deal _ unless someone who voted in favor of it changes his or her mind.

In that case, the person voting in favor of something can ask the other commissioners to reconsider. But the reconsideration has to take place no later than the second meeting after the initial decision was made.

Once an item has been reconsidered, it can't be reconsidered a second time. At least that's how commissioners Jim Coletta and Donna Fiala see things.

On Tuesday, Fiala asked for reconsideration of county funding for Hideaway Beach renourishment approved at the Oct. 23 meeting. Fiala supported the funding then and she supports it now. She wanted it reconsidered Tuesday so that the same majority that approved it would reject the idea of reconsideration, putting an end to the matter.

At the board's next meeting Tim Nance will replace Coletta on the board, potentially shifting support away from the beach funding. The board usually meets once every two weeks but in July, November and December it meets just once a month. That quirk in the board calendar means Nance's first meeting will be the last time the beach funding can be reconsidered.

Coletta, similarly used reconsideration as a method to bolster decisions that he continues to support., the appointment of Doug Rankin to the county Planning Commission, the benefit-laden termination of former board manager Ian Mitchell, the positive evaluation of Airports Director Chris Curry and a contract extension for Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency Director Penny Phillippi.

In each case, the board voted not to reconsider the issues, supposedly putting them to rest.

But here's the problem.

It is not universally accepted that the board can only reconsider an item once.

In advance of Tuesday's reconsideration fest, County Attorney Jeff Klatzkow penned a memo outlining reconsideration procedures.

He went into great detail about county ordinances, board practices, Roberts Rules of Order and the tendencies of courts. "I spent more time on it than I probably should have," Klatzkow said later. Based on how things have always been done, Klatzkow wrote, "It is my opinion that these four motions, if they fail, preclude further reconsideration of these items."

But — and it's a very big but — the bottom line of the research can be found in the bottom line of his memo.

"The Board of County Commissioners, at their next meeting, has the inherent legislative authority to interpret the Reconsideration Ordinance as allowing a second motion, and that such a finding by the majority of the members present would survive any legal challenge."

Translation: The present board can't tie the hands of a future board and if a simple majority on the future board wants to allow a second reconsideration of an item, it is within its legal authority to do so.

A strategic motion to reconsider an item simply to prevent an earnest reconsideration later on won't work if a majority of board members don't want it to.

Henning voted against every motion to reconsider Tuesday, a sign he wants to save reconsideration for the new board. Commissioner Georgia Hiller doesn't buy the notion that things can be reconsidered only once. Agreement from Nance creates that majority.

All the drama of beach renourishment, firings, appointments and evaluations of the past month can be relived on Dec. 11.

And that's no joke.

Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff/brent_batten

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features