Cincinnati Council meeting rules under review

Mar 24, 2015

A committee is beginning the process to clean-up and update the rules that govern Cincinnati City Council meetings.  The city solicitor's office and the council clerk are proposing several changes, and council members may have their own ideas.  

One item being discussed is what happens to a proposal that fails in committee.  Assistant City Solicitor Terry Nestor responded saying “If this committee or the Council wants that to be a different rule regarding what happens on failure; if you want failure to be failure - 'complete failure' - or if you want failure to be 'mostly failure,' this is the time to specify the extent of failure.”

One issue that continues to raise questions is who sets Council's weekly agenda?  Right now it's the mayor, but some Council Members, including Wendell Young, are questioning that practice.

“In the previous administration, this was a power that the mayor reached out for and the council did not challenge him on,” Young said.  “And so it was a practice that was allowed to continue.  But nowhere in {the rules} can I find that that is an actual power designated to the mayor.  The power rests with the Council to set the agenda.”

That is part of the blurred line between the executive and legislative branches in the city's current form of government.  A task force reviewing the city's charter is also expected to make some recommendations on the issue.

Council Member Kevin Flynn said he wants more information on the city solicitor's role.  Specifically how the city's top lawyer can represent the city, the mayor, the city manager, and individual council members at the same time.

“I’m not sure it is the rules of Council that need to address this, but it would be helpful, maybe sometime in the future, if we can get a presentation from the solicitor’s office as to how we balance all of those things,” Flynn said.  “I know in a private law firm where there would be potential conflicts... there it would be very difficult to perform those tasks.”

Flynn said the issue also affects opinions issued by the city solicitor's office that are tagged as attorney-client privileged documents, and sometimes it is not clear who the client is.

The current rules were adopted in 2013 right after the new Council took office.