Aldermen slow to zoom: Mayor, Fratesi raise questions after two special call meetings canceled

By BRYAN DAVIS PUBLISHER,

The agenda is short, but so were the number of Indianola aldermen willing to show up for two special call meetings that were supposed to be held on Thursday and Friday.

Indianola Mayor Steve Rosenthal has attempted to conduct a special call meeting two nights in a row using Zoom, but both meetings had to be canceled, and Rosenthal and Ward 1 Alderman Gary Fratesi say it was not because of technical difficulties.

“I’m furious,” Fratesi said. “They’re elected to do a job. They need to do it.”

Zoom is a service that allows virtual meetings to take place via the internet. 

The E-T attended the first part of Thursday night’s session, via Zoom. There was one item on the agenda, and it was a personnel issue, which meant that the meeting would almost immediately go into executive session once convened.

Friday night’s agenda had an additional item, which relates to the city’s recently-passed emergency declaration.

Rosenthal said that he received calls from multiple health care professionals on Friday who stated that local adult daycare facilities were potential breeding grounds for COVID-19.

Rosenthal said he planned to ask the board to amend the ordinance to specifically address this and shutter the city’s adult daycare facilities for the time being.

This must be done by a vote of the board, and it cannot legally be done unilaterally by the mayor, since the board approved the original proclamation.

The E-T agreed to exit Thursday night’s meeting once that vote was cast to go into closed session and return afterward for any public motion.

It took a while, but eventually four of the five aldermen, Fratiesi, Sam Brock, Marvin Elder and Darrell Simpson all were able to join. Ward 2 alderman Ruben Woods did not attend.

Rosenthal told The E-T, after Publisher Bryan Davis exited the meeting, that as soon as Simpson joined, Elder dropped and did not return.

Rosenthal sent a policeman to Elder’s home, and he said that the officer reported lights on and cars in the driveway, but no one came to the door

Rosenthal said he gave Elder the benefit of the doubt, and even though they had a quorum present on Thursday, he opted to reconvene on Friday evening, since all of the city officials are new to the technology.

Rosenthal said Woods showed up to Friday night’s Zoom meeting, but Rosenthal said he stated “I’ve got to see what the other ones are going to do,” apparently referring to Brock and Elder.

Once Woods dropped the call, none of the three showed back up.

Rosenthal sent policemen to each alderman’s home.

Rosenthal said officers reported that Woods and Brock stated they were not going to attend the meeting, and like Thursday night, no one answered at the Elder residence.

The E-T reached out to Brock, Elder and Woods through text message, but there was no reply from any of the aldermen prior to publication.

With no scheduled meeting for the board until April 13, Rosenthal said on Friday night that he is less concerned about the original personnel issue, and he is more concerned about the fact that potential hotspots for the novel coronavirus may continue to legally operate beyond the weekend.

“This could be a matter of life or death,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said he plans to call another meeting on Saturday.

Absent a vote to shutter the city’s adult daycares, they can legally open on Monday morning.

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