BRIGHTON — In the interest of "harmony, understanding and respect," Brighton City Councilman Rex Bell asked his fellow councilmembers Aug. 8 to reconsider the much-debated crematorium proposal after a controversial "revote" at the previous night's meeting was ruled invalid.
The marathon Aug. 7 session of council came to a close just as opponents of a proposed crematorium finished applauding a 5-4 vote by council to defeat the ordinance on first reading. The "revote" came immediately after Mayor Dick McLean announced passage of the ordinance by a 5-4 vote, which prompted Councilwoman Cynthia Martinez to claim her vote was registered incorrectly.
City Attorney Margaret Brubacker read from a memorandum sent earlier in the day to council and city staff, explaining that after examining the previous night's proceedings, the "revote" was not a formal, binding action by council and that the previous vote -- in which the proposal passed -- was the only formal action taken.
Councilwoman Martinez spoke multiple times about her desire to apologize for the confusion her desire to change her vote caused, and even asked a letter from the applicant disputing the validity of the "revote" be read aloud during the meeting for all in attendance to hear.
"I make mistakes," Martinez added.
Councilman Chris Maslanik offered pointed criticism of the previous night's proceedings throughout council's discussion.
"There is not one of us up here ... that didn't know what we were doing," Maslanik said. Later in the meeting, Maslanik made it clear that he believed the outcome of the vote was clear when the mayor announced its passage and the votes were displayed on the council chamber's electronic display.
"It was there," Maslanik said. "There was no question."
Other councilmembers expressed regret as the discussion continued. Councilwoman Lynn Baca, who voted against the proposal, spoke directly to representatives for the application in stating clearly that council aimed to make right what they had done wrong.
"I think you are due your due process," Baca said. "I do apologize for this."
Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Scott went as far as to "apologize ... for the sloppiness of this council."
City Manager Manuel Esquibel further clarified the status of the crematorium proposal by explicitly stating that normal procedure would dictate a second reading for the ordinance given its passage at the Aug. 7 meeting, and that he personally took responsibility for the controversy over the supposed revote.
"We should have caught it last night," Esquibel said.
Following Brubacker's advisement, Councilman Bell made the motion for reconsideration after supporting the proposal, though he acknowledged he may have been "tempted" to not do so. Under council rules, only a member who voted with the majority could call for a reconsideration, Brubacker explained, leaving Bell, Maslanik, Martinez, McLean and Councilman J.W. Edwards able to initiate a fresh look at the matter.
Because the proposal is a land-use ordinance, there will be notice of the Sept. 4 hearing for reconsideration 15 days in advance, including notices posted in the neighborhood around Tabor-Rice Funeral Home. Brubacker also confirmed that there will be no public comment on the proposed ordinance itself since the reconsideration is strictly a procedural matter.
Overall, the tenor of the debate alternated from profuse apologies by councilmembers to the more-pointed criticisms of the proceedings and the inattention to proper rules governing council's actions.
"Everyone has done this kind of revoting ... everyone here has seen it happen in the past," Scott said. "And we've chosen to do nothing about it."