WOODMERE — Mayor Ben Holbert vetoed two ordinances over the weekend, one that cut his spending authority in half and one that required council members to have expenditures approved.
One ordinance reduced the mayor’s spending authority from $5,000 to $2,500 per line item. The spending authority allows the mayor to spend village funds up to a certain amount without approval from council. The other ordinance that he vetoed required council members’ expenditures to be approved by the treasurer and the council president. Council passed both measures at the Nov. 13 council meeting.
“My written statement is my observation, along with supporting documentation, that the presentation of legislation listed above is not clear by intent, and ultimately hampers the mayor’s ability to adequately administer duties that serve the residents, businesses and interested parties of this community,” Mayor Holbert wrote in his veto letter, which council members received late Friday night.
In response, Village Council called a special meeting for this coming Monday to take place immediately following the 6 p.m. finance committee meeting at Village Hall to reconsider legislation vetoed by the mayor. Other items on the special meeting agenda include discussing the budget and credit card policy and entering into executive session for personnel matters.
According to Law Director Frank Consolo, council may take a vote to overturn the mayor’s veto no later than the next regularly scheduled meeting, which is Dec. 11. There are seven council members and at least five votes are needed to overturn a veto.
In his veto letter, the mayor cited three main objections to these ordinances. First, he said that the ordinances did not have a caption, and it was difficult for an average citizen to understand the meaning of the ordinances and look up the listed citations in the code.
Second, council passed these ordinances after one reading instead of three, so the new council members, including Nakeshia Nickerson and former Mayor Charles Smith, did not have a chance to attend the meeting and give their thoughts, the mayor stated. One of the three new council members, Vivian Walker, was in attendance at the meeting. Third, the mayor said that there is no verifiable evidence that he has exceeded his spending authority.
Councilwoman Glenda Todd-Miller, who made the motion to suspend the rules on the mayor’s spending authority ordinance, said that she stands behind her decision. She said that she has requested information since October from the administration and Treasurer Rhonda Hall about how to cut costs to have a successful fourth quarter and did not receive a response.
“When I request information, it’s for a reason. We’ve gone through fourth quarter tightness in the past, and we’ve always come up with solutions to rectify it,” Ms. Todd-Miller said. “I like to be proactive, not reactive.”
As for the other veto, Ms. Todd Miller said that she does not see why the mayor would have an issue with the council president and treasurer approving council’s expenditures. She said that the expenditures would have two sets of eyes and there is a system of checks and balances.
Mayor Holbert said that both measures were introduced by the same person, Council President Jennifer Mitchell Earley. In the letter, the mayor wrote that neither of the ordinances were introduced at the Finance Committee or the Legislation Committee meetings on Nov. 4, which are meant to discuss legislation prior to the council meeting the following week.
“It is necessary to exercise this extraordinary action to maintain the interest of open records, transparency and truth in government for the people of the Village of Woodmere,” he said in the veto letter.
The mayor also said that council did not discuss either ordinance at the time of passage. The only member to vote against both ordinances was Councilman Tennyson Adams. He declined to comment on his vote.