CITY ATTORNEY OPINION [14-03 revised

]
OFFICE OF THE CITY ATTORNEY

MEMORANDUM
TO: CHRIS SWOPE, City Clerk A'LYNNE BOLES, City Council President MEMBERS OF CITY COUNCIL VIRG BERNERO, Mayor RANDY HANNAN, Chief of Staff CHAD GAMBLE, COO

FROM: DATE: RE:

JANENE MCINTYRE, CITY ATTORNEY JANUARY 28, 2014 COUNCIL DAIS SEATING ARRANGEMENT

*** REVISED***
Background

This opinion revises formal opinion #14-03. Long established, the City Council President has sat in the middle of the dais, with the City Clerk and Chief Deputy Clerk seated to the President's immediate left and the City Attorney to the President's inunediate right. This seating arrangement has existed as long as memory serves. On about January 17,2014, Council Staff circulated the attached seating chart for 2014. The email accompanying it indicated it was at the direction of the Council President. The seating chart rearranged Council members, and moved the City Clerk and City Attorney away from their long standing seating positions. The City Clerk is now seated near the end of the dais on the Council President's left, with the Chief Deputy Clerk no longer seated at the dais at all. The City Attorney has been moved to the Council President's far right on the dais.
Ouestions

1. Is there a Charter provision or written adopted Council Rule or procedure that gives the Council President authority to change the seating for the City Clerk, Chief Deputy City Clerk, or City Attorney (the "City Officers")?

2. What is the procedure for changing the seating of City Officers?
Short Answers

1. No. There is no Charter provision or written adopted Council Rule or procedure that gives the authority of the Council President to change the seating for the City Officers. 2. Council must vote to change the seating of City Officers.
Analysis
In the absence of some written authority, the position of Council President established by

virtue of the Charter does not have unilateral authority to change the seating of the Clerk, Deputy Clerk, or City Attorney. Unilateral changes by the City Council President are not effective. Lansing City Charter (1978) Section 3-102.2 provides that City Council shall select a presiding officer, known as the Council President. However, the Charter does not give the Council President the inherent authority to dictate the seating for the City Officers. The Council's own Rules likewise do not give the Council President authority to change the long established seating arrangement at formal meeting of the other City Officers. Both the City Clerk and City Attorney have mandatory roles at City Council meetings. The Clerk "shall be the Clerk of City council and shall keep a printed journal in the English language of its proceedings." (Charter, 4-501.2). In addition, the Clerk is responsible for certifying the [mal form of ordinances, resolutions, and other actions by Council (Charter, 4501.4). By Charter, Rule, or convention, the Clerk conducts roll calls for attendance and votes, reads legislation, times public speakers, and is responsible for publishing the agenda and reading the agenda at meetings. The Clerk's position is therefore integral to the orderly functioning of Council meetings. The City Attorney is responsible for approving the final form of ordinances and resolutions, and is often called on to comment on the legality of pending matters. By convention, the City Attorney has acted as parliamentarian; and is expected to assist Council in following its own rules. Finally, the City Attorney in the office's advisory function is called upon to field questions of law presented by activities performed by Council at its meeting. To properly fulfil their respective functions, the Council President, Clerk, and City Attorney need to be in continual communication. Hence, the historic seating arrangement has had these three individuals together at the center of the dais.

Although the Council President does not have authority to modify the seating arrangement, Council itself has inherent authority to establish its seating arrangement. Council members are co-equal. No single Council member has authority over another, unless they are granted that authority by the Charter or the Council as a whole. The proper method to change the seating arrangement is, therefore, by a majority vote of City Council acting at a regular Council meeting.
Conclusion

Without some grant of explicit authority to the Council President, the charge that "the Council President shall preside at all formal sessions of the City Council when present" (Charter 3-102.3) is not broad enough to include unilaterally changing the established seating of the City Attorney and City Clerk at Council meetings. Moreover, no other written delegation of such authority to the President has been found after a diligent search. Therefore, unilateral changes to the seating arrangement by the Council President are not effective. Council can change the seating arrangement by majority vote of its membership.

cc:

City Attorney Staff

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