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Bogged down in procedural confusion

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Ellis County Press

MIDLOTHIAN -- Members wanted to do the right thing, it seems, but confusion over procedure kept the Midlothian City Council going in circles during the July 25 meeting. 

At one point, Council spent over 10 minutes discussing whether to table an item, allow it to be withdrawn or extend the public hearing. It was debated whether allowing citizens to speak at that time would have the effect of opening the public hearing, and whether, once opened, it could be tabled. 

'I'm in a quandary here,' said City Attorney Donald Stout. 'For the Council to override (the Planning and Zoning Committee), we need a 7-0 vote. If one person abstains, it takes away even the possibility of an override, so there is some thought to tabling or honoring the request that the case be withdrawn.'

'Shouldn't you establish if there's a conflict of interest before you table it?' asked a citizen. '(Withdrawing the case) is just a slick move to get around a denial.' The man urged the council to 'go ahead and vote now.'

The discussion continued, moving on to a debate over whether a council member with a conflict of interest must, or even should, admit this and remove him or herself from the public hearing or only from an actual vote. More time was spent on how to define 'substantial changes' to a zoning change request, and what would be the difference between tabling the request and denying it, thereby forcing reapplication.

Other agenda items resulted in the same type of questions: 'Can we table a public hearing?' 'Are we still in public hearing?' 'Can you clarify that procedure for me?'

As the meeting wore on toward 11 p.m., an exasperated citizen murmured, 'It seems to me like they need to take some sort of class on how to run a meeting.'

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