Council agenda is full one

FAIRMONT — Items on the Fairmont City Council’s agenda for today’s meeting create the potential for contentious debate.

The public report on City Administrator Mike Humpal’s performance evaluation and Councilman Tom Hawkins’ push to eliminate the City Attorney’s code-required attendance at council meetings have generated prior debate, but both issues will come under additional scrutiny today.

The council meets at 5:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall. The meeting is broadcast live on Fairmont cable channel 13.

At the June 24 council meeting, Ward 3 representative Randy Lubenow proposed an amendment to the agenda that would allow the results of Humpal’s evaluation to be made public immediately that night after a closed session to assess the administrator’s job performance. Lubenow also said he planned to offer a resolution concerning the city administrator at that time but declined to elaborate on specifics about the resolution.

This was the same procedure recently used to sever employment with former City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist, a process that deviated from the council’s usual course of releasing evaluation results at its next regular meeting.

Chris Hood of Flaherty and Hood, the city’s interim legal counsel for the next six months, offered the opinion that the council should follow its usual policy of releasing the results at its next regular meeting, but on a motion from Hawkins with a second from Ruth Cyphers, the council supported Lubenow’s proposal by a 3-2 vote, with Bruce Peters and Wayne Hasek dissenting.

After a closed session that stretched for more than two hours, the council re-opened its meeting, with Lubenow asking to table his resolution and Humpal’s evaluation until today’s meeting. He cited “some issues that we need to work out” as the reason for his about-face.

A public report on the administrator’s evaluation is listed on today’s agenda, but there is no mention of Lubenow’s tabled resolution. However, this could change if he or one of his cohorts requests an amendment to the agenda at the start of the meeting.

For several weeks, Hawkins has pushed to delete the City Code provision requiring the City Attorney’s attendance at council meetings, a move he has referred to as a “housekeeping” matter. Both Hasek and Peters have argued that the attorney’s presence at meetings is needed now more that ever, due to the council’s division on certain issues.

Hawkins claims that required attendance could be included in the contract the city negotiates with a new permanent City Attorney, but he always adds the caveat “if we desire” or “if the council thinks it’s necessary.”

Residents will have a chance to weigh in on the code change at a public hearing prior to the council’s vote on the matter.

Another proposed code change to strengthen the rental housing rules will be introduced today, and the council likely will set a public hearing on this modification for July 22. Included in the proposal are shortening the licensing term from three years to two years and requiring landlords to conduct criminal background checks for all prospective tenants as part of a crime-free rental housing program in the city.