A 3-1 vote to hire a full-time accounting assistant for City Clerk Lashanda Moore met with opposition, sparked some heated exchanges and was verbally vetoed by Mayor Steve Rosenthal during Monday night’s Indianola Board of Aldermen meeting.
As in previous meetings, Moore stated that she needed an assistant due to her workload.
“I think that overload requires a full-time assistant, and I am just asking the mayor and board to at least give me a full-time assistant,” she said.
Rosenthal insisted that Moore’s load is actually less than what previous clerks had to deal with.
“The last four city clerks, not including the interim city clerk, have always done this work without an assistant. We’re paying a higher salary than we’ve ever paid. At this point in my mind, we need to look at where the bogdown is,” Rosenthal said.
Alderman Ruben Woods asked about the salary for the position and Moore said the budget allowed for $27,000, which equates to $12.50 per hour.
Alderman Darrell Simpson then asked if that amount accounted for insurance and benefits and such. Moore responded, “The insurance is budgeted on a second line and it’s budgeted for three people.”
Rosenthal then said that the figures Moore stated, “Are not quite accurate.”
He mentioned two other deputy clerks (one who is no longer employed with the city) that fall under that budget category and said that line item was actually overspent instead of having a $27,000 surplus.
However, he contended, “The money is not the problem.”
Rosenthal again mentioned the workload of the previous city clerks, and added that the city was then operating with a budget that was about $3 million more and that there were two thousand more citizens then, plus the city clerks had grants that they were working on, which is not the case now, he said.
“So, I feel like at this point we need to get Ms. Moore the assistance she needs in the sense of training because every other clerk was able to do it in a 50 to 60-hour week,” Rosenthal said.
Moore responded, “No sir.”
However, Rosenthal reasserted that it was so, and pointed out that he was not referring to former clerk Jane Evans.
At that point, Aldermen Sam Brock and Marvin Elder attempted to inject comments, but Rosenthal reminded them that he still had the floor and they would have their opportunity.
He then emphasized, “Again, the board can do as they want and I will also.”
Elder asked, “What that mean, Mayor?”
Brock also addressed the Mayor’s comment.
“We respect you as mayor, but you don’t need to throw out in our face, you can do as you want to do.”
Rosenthal attempted to interrupt, but Brock reminded him, “Hold it now, I got the floor, I got the floor.”
Brock continued, “Everybody up here is 21-plus, we grown. All of those people before Ms. Moore were working 60 to almost 80 hours, either at work or at home. One lady would come up here Saturday and Sunday, stay all day.”
Brock stated that in the name of progress and moving into the 21st century, “It’s nothing wrong with adding to the position if it’s going to help, but ain't no use of trying to keep throwing somebody under the rug talking about what we need to do. Let’s do something. It’s time out for talking.”
Elder then stated he wanted to make the motion to give Moore what she needed.
“When we hired Ms. Moore all of us were on board talking about we were going to get you what you need, but we’re doing just like somebody else in this country. We’re crawfishing back.”
Rosenthal called for the motion, Elder made it, Brock seconded; they and Woods voted yes, but Simpson voted no. Alderman Gary Fratesi was absent.
“Motion carries; and I veto it,” said Rosenthal.
Questions arose as to whether or not Rosenthal had the power to veto based on the members in attendance and the question was eventually referred to Attorney Gary Austin.
Addressing the Mayor and Board, Austin said, “First of all, the Mayor doesn’t have the authority to veto that tonight. He has to do it in writing. Secondly, it takes four aldermen to overrule a veto.
At that Rosenthal said, “We will move forward.”
Elder asked for permission to make a statement, but Rosenthal said no.
Elder continued despite the refusal, “If we got this going like this, if we fin to be this evil against this city clerk, we might not be having no more board meetings no time soon because what you just slung in our damn face, I don’t like it, its wrong,” he said.
Rosenthal also expressed his dislike, before repeatedly banging his gavel and telling Elder he was out of order as Elder persisted in articulating his opinion.
“This a department head and something right now, in the city of Indianola, going on right now about every last one of these department heads and y’all better understand what’s taking place,” Elder said.
Since rapping the gavel did not squelch Elder, Rosenthal arose from his seat and offered him the gavel.
“You want to run the meeting, come sit up here. Come sit up here and run the meeting.”
Elder then pointed to Woods and said, there’s the vice-mayor.
Rosenthal continued, “Do you want to run it? Then hush!”
That comment evidently did not set well with Elder, “Aw, naw. You better go on your street and tell somebody to hush. Don’t come at me with telling me to hush. Now, you want to go home and hush somebody, you go right ahead.”
Rosenthal persistently insisted that Elder was out of order, but unrelenting, Elder continued to talk.
“We’ve got a problem, what’s going on with every last one of these black department heads in the city. We’ve got something happening and it’s going to get exposed tonight,” Elder said.
Rosenthal asserted that they should continue.
As the lone no vote, Simpson stated that he wasn’t against Moore getting the assistant but would like more information on what she needs and he felt it should have been discussed in executive session.
The matter was originally scheduled for closed session, but Rosenthal pulled it at the beginning of the meeting and added it to the open agenda stating that it was not for executive session.
In other business,
A vote taken at the October 14 meeting to have the City Clerk serve as the local debt collection coordinator was rescinded during Monday night’s session. Brock retracted his previous motion and offered a subsequent appeal to name Municipal Court Clerk Teresa Nolden to the position.
Citing Moore’s already reported extensive list of duties and responsibilities, Elder had contended at the prior session that Nolden was the more logical choice.
Brock said on Monday night that his retraction was due to information gathered from conferring with other mayors and city clerks during the Municipal League Conference.