WILKES-BARRE – A change in the meeting times for city council meetings left a few people out in the cold Tuesday night.
Council held its work session and regular meeting on the same night, something that has been done in the past. But this time, the meeting immediately followed the work session and that came as a surprise to some. Previously, council held a work session at 5 and the meeting at 6.
Tuesday night’s meeting began at 5:10 p.m., right after the work session ended.
Sam Troy, who often attends the meetings, believed it was starting at 6. Legal ads purchased by the city specified the change. A meeting list published in Sunday’s Times Leader erroneously listed the starting time as 6 p.m.
“Who reads the legal notices?” Troy said. “I feel they want to keep public comment out of the process and get out of there as quickly as possible and go home.”
Usually, work sessions are held on Tuesdays and meetings on Thursdays but occasionally council will double up and hold both sessions on the same night.
Troy, a self-proclaimed political activist, showed up to offer his comments only to find City Hall dark.
Walter Griffith, who often addresses council, says there is no logic in the change and said it precludes working people from attending.
Council has reduced the time for public comments from 10 minutes to five minutes. Griffith and Troy feel this action further undermines the concept of free speech and public participation.
“Council meetings aren’t delayed because of public comments,” Griffith said.
Troy feels council is afraid to listen to people who disagree with them.
“We often make valid points,” Troy said. “They don’t like criticism. It’s shameful; it really is. With all the problems facing the city, instead of encouraging public involvement, they are discouraging it.”
Council President Kathy Kane, who proposed the meeting change, was not at the meeting and was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
No public comments were offered at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Troy said he would like to enlist the support of Griffith and activist Tim Grier to form a city watchdog group.
On Wednesday, city attorney Tim Henry reaffirmed his stance that a 2-0 vote to award the Kirby Park concession stand contract was valid.
Three of the five council members were present, and Councilman Tony Thomas abstained from the concession contract vote. Council awarded the contract to Thomas’ father, who operates Tony Thomas’ Deli.
Henry said the city charter calls for a majority vote of the “quorum present.”