Monday night's Indianola Board of Aldermen meeting ended abruptly and without an official adjournment or recess when Mayor Steve Rosenthal and aldermen Gary Fratesi and Darrell Simpson stood up from their seats and departed the session.
Their exodus was apparently sparked by remarks and innuendo stemming from earlier motions and a 3-2 vote to advertise to fill three vacancies. Alderman Marvin Elder stated that he wanted to make the vote as three separate motions.
Plus, a 3-2 decision to overthrow a veto submitted by the mayor with regard to hiring a full-time assistant for City Clerk Lashanda Moore that failed and that too caused embers to fly.
The city leaders had only reached the fifth item on the agenda, the approval to advertise for job openings on three city positions, before the mass departure.
In introducing the item Rosenthal said, “As you all know, our city prosecutor has resigned and our city attorney has turned in his resignation as he’s retiring come January 1, and we’re in need of a part-time accountant, which we already have slots on all three of those positions, so I’m asking to advertise for those three positions.”
He then called for one motion to vote to advertise the three positions. Fratesi made the motion, and Simpson seconded.
Rosenthal proceeded to call for a vote, but before he could carry it out Elder voiced his concern that Rosenthal didn’t call for discussion and expressed that he was not ready to vote on the matter.
Elder then asked if the vote was just for one position or all three and was told that it was for the trio of titles.
He then said, “Since you brought this and dropped it down on us tonight, explain to the audience and us what this means, because I can’t support you on this.”
Rosenthal responded, “This right there will be given to the newspaper.”
That, evidently was not what Elder was referring to so he explained that he was referencing a document that had just been given to the board members at that session.
Rosenthal then stated that what Elder was alluding to was the written veto that he (Rosenthal) had indicated he would submit after the board’s last official meeting.
At that session, Rosenthal said he would veto the aldermen’s 3-1 vote to hire a full-time accounting assistant for Moore.
“It’s not a surprise to you,” Rosenthal added.
Elder then asserted that the three positions should be separated.
“Take these one-by-one and see where your vote still stands. Let’s see whether or not we got crawfish in here or whatever,” Elder said.
Fratesi then reminded them that there was an active motion on the floor, but Elder voiced that he wanted to make another motion to vote on the positions separately.
Rosenthal mentioned the active motion since it had to be carried out before another could be made. He called for the vote and announced that it passed 3-2. Fratesi, Simpson and Alderman Ruben Woods voted yes, Elder voted no and Brock simply said, “Not ready, not ready.”
Brock protested that the aldermen should have been allowed to vote on their opposition to the mayor’s veto during that session.
“That’s the rule,” Brock said. Rosenthal said, “No, that’s not the rule.” Brock then retorted, “Go down there and ask (Attorney General Jim) Hood.”
Brock argued, “Number one, if you do a veto you’re supposed to come back to the board to see if it’s going to be override or not. You didn’t do that. And then before anything could happen, you done jumped the board and before it could be a discussion you got a motion. Now I said earlier, three years ago, that you cannot make a motion before your discussion.”
Brock asserted that a discussion should be implemented before any board decision is made.
“Now, if y’all done had a private meeting and then y’all come in here and gone throw this in our face, we’re going to throw it back to you,” he said.
Brock then made a motion that was seconded by Elder to go back and table the prior made decision to get further understanding. “Because this here ain't nothing but planned and it goes back to one word that Alderman Elder said.”
Rosenthal told Brock he couldn’t vote to table something that has already passed and advised him that any alderman could have made a motion at anytime during the session with or without a discussion. He affirmed that the motion in question was properly carried out.
He also invited Brock to make a motion to overthrow his veto since it was his right as an alderman to call it to a motion. “But what we just passed had nothing to do with my veto,” Rosenthal said.
Elder argued that it did because of his motion from the prior meeting and accusingly said Rosenthal “bundled” the three positions together in one motion. Elder then asserted, “That was one of them private meetings.” Rosenthal rebuffed, “There is no private meetings unless you’re having them.”
At that, Simpson asked for permission to address the board. “I’m really offended at getting accused of things and things being insinuated about me that I know and God knows are not true at these board meetings every other Monday night.”
Apparently addressing Rosenthal he said, “I don’t understand why it’s gotta happen.We’re just throwing insinuations out there. I have not been in your office in two months, much less this week.”
Then raising his voice level, he said, “So, if you’ve got proof of something throw it on the table man, take a picture. But I have not had a private meeting with anybody.”
Brock also addressed Rosenthal.
He asserted the need for a board-wide training on Robert's Rules of Order, which is suppose to be what governs their meeting procedures. Brock’s assertion is that they are not being properly adhered to.
“You’re suppose to be the head rocker, but you don’t follow that pattern Mayor,” he said.
Rosenthal told the alderman that his knowledge of the procedures is based on his attending many training sessions and then he challenged Brock to prove his contention.
Nonetheless, for a second time during the session, he invited Brock to make the motion to overthrow his veto. So, Brock did. Elder offered the second with the two of them, plus Alderman Ruben Woods voting yes and Fratesi and Simpson voting no.
Rosenthal announced that the motion failed, which sparked a heated exchange.
“We had three!” Brock exclaimed.
Addressing Brock’s declaration, Rosenthal said, “Alderman Brock, you want to understand protocol? The protocol is, it has to win by 4-1. Read your Robert’s Rules of Order, read our charter, read our ordinance book, it’s all online. So, don’t tell me about processes that you don’t understand.”
That’s when Elder spoke up, “So in other words, this thing was divided up on racial lines, wasn’t it? Three blacks stuck with what it was. Every time it looks like we try to get something done the right way that’ll benefit some of our own people, Mayor, it always goes that way.”
At that, Rosenthal addressed this reporter and said, “Put that down so when we go to court you’ll have that.”
Elder continued, “Last year, November 14, we were down there…” Rosenthal interrupted with a rap of the gavel and shouted Elder’s name. Elder retorted, “Don’t try it, don’t you try it. November the 14th, last year, we had that same problem down there in Jackson.”
Then evidently referencing his fellow board members Elder said, “This jack and that jack and that jack.” That’s when Simpson arose to leave.
“You can talk racial if you want, I’m gone. I’m not a racist person,” Simpson said.
Fratesi too rose up and followed Simpson out of the door as Rosenthal also stood.
“If you want things to be right then live by them, don’t talk about them,” Rosenthal said. And gathering his belongings, he continued, “I’m not going to sit up here and listen to that BS.” He then followed Simpson and Fratesi out of the door.
As they departed, Elder stated, “This goes to show exactly what’s happening to our department heads in Indianola. You see it right down there, it’s wrong.”
Simpson’s departure from the meeting was his second such action in as many sessions. During the October 28 meeting, he was present for the open session, but left during the closed personnel session and was not present for the resulting vote.