Shall a law amending Section C4.01 entitled ‘Rules of Order” of the Charter of the City of Newburgh clarifying unexcused and excessive absence from Council meetings and defining disorderly behavior by a Council Member and providing a procedure for determining violations of same be approved?
Proposition number 6
This past April, the Newburgh City Council passed a resolution that creates a local law amending the “Rules of Order” in the City of Newburgh, which would more closely consider how council members act while sitting in their positions, and could possibly result in expulsion as the last option.
That local law will go before city voters on November 2.
The amendments to the resolution include several additions regarding excessive and unexcused absence and disorderly behavior. The council is able to now declare the member’s seat vacant after going through the outlined process. If a member of the council has engaged in excessive or unexcused absences or disorderly behavior, the council is allowed to deny or limit any right, power or privilege of the member, reprimand, censure, propose a fine, expel, or “any other sanction determined by the council to be appropriate.” However, any decision must be made with a majority plus one vote of all members of the council.
When it comes to excessive absence, the threshold has been set at four consecutive regular meetings or six regular meetings within a calendar year. When it comes to disorderly behavior, it is outlined as “willful violation or evasion of any provision of law relating to such member’s discharge of his or her official duties, commission of fraud upon the city, conversion of public property to such member’s own use, knowingly permitting or allowing by gross culpable conduct another person to convert public property, violation of the council’s duly adopted rules and order of procedure, violation of the city’s code of ethics, or violation of city policy or policies against discrimination, harrassment and workplace violence.”
If a council member is charged with one of these things, they will have seven days to file a written demand for a public hearing.
At the April public hearing, many residents spoke against it, sensing that was meant to target one council member in particular – Councilman Omari Shakur whose conduct outside of the council chambers has been called into question by his fellow council members as well as members of the public. Shakur has been accused of directing vulgar language towards police on several occasions, most recently in April after he was arrested and charged with failure to stop at a stop sign. After that incident, Fellow council member Bob Sklarz suggested he should be censured by the council.
Shakur, at that April meeting, was the only council member to vote against putting the local law on the ballot for next week.
Mayor Torrance Harvey reminded residents that “the people will vote and have a say.”
“For people to come on here and say we’re committing the greatest sin to our republic and democracy and that we’re not listening to the people … the people will vote November 2, 2021,” said Harvey. “The people will have a final say in this local law amendment.”