Controversy over mayor's power to change an abstention vote continues in Branson

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 8:47 PM CST
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There was more controversy at the Branson Board of Aldermen meeting stemming from a decision about whether or not to bury utility lines along West 76 Country Boulevard.

In November of 2019, Aldermen Rick Castillon, Larry Milton and Kevin McConnell walked out of a meeting after Mayor Edd Akers overturned Castillon’s abstention vote on the utility issue and recast it to a no, which created a tie which he broke with a yes, which pushed the issue forward to a second reading.

Mayor Akers said at that time he was acting within the statute to push city leaders to make a decision on an issue that has been at a stand still for months.

The three aldermen who left the November meeting disagree that the mayor legally has that power and even sought outside legal council.

During the January 14 meeting, Alderman McConnell stated that the lawyer he spoke with said the mayor wasn’t acting within the law.

"The second opinion that I received from someone with a lot more, with all due respect, with a lot more municipal experience than we have on staff, said clearly under 2.8, it's under Roberts Rules of Order that you cannot change an abstention to a no," Alderman McConnell said.

Though City Attorney Chris Lebeck has said it is within the mayor's power to overturn the abstention vote, he also sought a second legal opinion. That lawyer explained during the January 14 meeting that it’s uncommon for a mayor to change an alderman’s abstention and the law is somewhat unclear about what is correct in these instances. Still, after reviewing previous case law, he ultimately agreed that the mayor was acting within his power.

"It is very likely that the mayor does have the authority to either treat an abstention as a no vote or to recast it as a no vote," Attorney James Meadows said.

At the January 14 meeting, the board was scheduled to make their final decision on spending nearly $2 million on burying the utilities, but Alderman McConnell recused himself due to a conflict of interest and the board voted to postpone the vote again until the next meeting.

For more KY3/KSPR’s previous story about this issue, visit:

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