NCC Council members say absences weren't coordinated; Kovach being punished for winning election - News Journal
Councilman Weiner said citizens should be "furious." "Tom Kovach is being punished for committing the crimes of winning a special election, then placing an item on the agenda to talk about the poor way we passed the Governor's Square deed restrictions into law," Weiner said. Councilman Hollins reportedly admitted to WDEL talk show host Rick Jensen that the absences were in fact coordinated.
New Castle County Council members say absences weren't coordinated
Executive committee meeting lacks quorum, blocking ability to take votes
Written by ADAM TAYLOR
WILMINGTON -- Apparently taking a page from fellow Democrats in the Wisconsin Legislature, six New Castle County Council members were mysteriously absent from a committee meeting Tuesday.
The absences of Councilmen Bill Bell, Penrose Hollins, Joe Reda, Tim Sheldon, George Smiley and Jea Street resulted in the lack of a quorum at the council's executive committee meeting, so nothing could be voted on, Council President Tom Kovach said.
The absences seem to be a continuation of a move to undercut Kovach's power. Kovach, one of three Republicans on council, won a special election against Sheldon in January.
"It's disappointing," Kovach said. "But if what I'm doing is interrupting the status quo, well, that's exactly what I was elected to do."
Kovach didn't take long in irritating some council members. Last month, he refused to sign deed restrictions into law for the controversial Governor's Square III Shopping Center in Bear after several council members said they unknowingly voted to pass them Feb. 8 because the agenda title was too vague.
Since then, the council voted to have the council pro tem sign any measure into law that the president refuses to sign, a move thought to have been done to limit Kovach's powers. All six members who were absent Thursday voted for that change, as did Democrat John Cartier and Republican Janet Kilpatrick, who had notified Kovach earlier Tuesday that they would not be at any of the day's three committee meetings.
The six absent members were at the 3 p.m. land-use committee meeting. Kovach said none notified him they would not be at the 4:30 p.m. executive committee meeting.
Kovach, fellow Republican Bob Weiner and Democrats Lisa Diller, William Powers and Dave Tackett attended the executive committee meeting. They are the five members who voted against the move to allow the pro tem to sign bills into law.
Tackett had an ordinance ready to be voted out of the executive committee Tuesday that seeks to make sure titles on the council's agenda are more specific -- a direct result of the Feb. 8 vote on Governor's Square.
Diller spoke about a measure she plans to introduce next week that would stop the way council changed its rules to allow the pro tem to sign bills. Hollins introduced that measure at a committee meeting Feb. 22, where it was passed. There was no advance notice, nor was a written version available.
Diller said she was "offended" by Hollins' action. Her proposal would require seven days' notice before rules changes and that a written version of the change be distributed to each member.
"It's just good practice to have it in advance and have it in writing," Diller said.
Tackett and Diller will try to get their proposed rules changes voted out of the executive committee on March 8.
Street, Reda and Smiley said their absences were not coordinated. Sheldon, Hollins and Bell could not be reached.
Smiley said he's missed only three or four committee meetings in the past several years. He attended a county Historic Review Board meeting instead.
"There are other meetings to be attended," Smiley said. "There was nothing outstanding on the agenda. He [Kovach] is having them to have them. He can have them, but I have other obligations I have to fulfill."
Street said he had to get back to work. Reda said he had "something personal."
Weiner said citizens should be "furious."
"Tom Kovach is being punished for committing the crimes of winning a special election, then placing an item on the agenda to talk about the poor way we passed the Governor's Square deed restrictions into law," Weiner said.
Kovach and some of the other members talked about adding disciplinary language to council rules. He noted that members' being absent from a meeting without alerting anyone is a rules violation.
Street and Smiley scoffed at the notion of being disciplined.
"What's he gonna do, beat me?" Street said. "He should discipline himself for invoking veto power that only the county executive has."
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