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Analysis of LB Municipal Code Requiring LB Councilmembers To Cast Vote If Present in Chamber

Mayor O'Neill says she hasn't enforced section requiring permission to leave unless close to losing quorum

(November 27, 2001) -- LB's Municipal Code requires LB City Councilmembers to cast votes if they are present in the Council chamber and does not let Councilmembers excuse themselves from the Council chamber, a provision presumably enacted to discourage "walking" on votes.

The Muni Code provisions are civil sections and are not crimes. They are, however, the law of the city governing the conduct of the public's legislative body, the City Council, and were publicly enacted by voted action of the Council itself.

Section 2.02.010 of the LB Municipal Code specifies:

"The rules set forth in this Chapter are adopted and approved and shall constitute the rules of the Council governing the conduct and performance of the duties of the Council from and after the effective date of the ordinance codified in this Chapter."

Regarding Councilmembers' voting, Section 2.03.050 the Municipal Code provides in pertinent part:

"...Except when a conflict of interest exists and abstention is required by State law, every member of the Council who is present when a roll is called shall vote for or against the question, unless excused by a majority of the members present, prior to the calling of the roll on such question."

And section 2.03.100 of the Municipal Code provides in pertinent part:

"...No member of the council shall leave the council chamber without permission from the mayor."

At the November 20 City Council meeting, Mayoral candidate and 7th district Council incumbent Ray Grabinski left the Council chamber roughly 42 minutes in advance of discussion of a proposed pay raise for the City Manager that would bring his annual compensation to nearly $200,000 annually. Councilman Grabinski returned to the Council chamber roughly one minute after the item ended.

As separately reported by, Councilman Grabinski denies having "walked" on the vote, saying he was "sick." (See coverage at: Grabinski denies "walking" on City Mgr. pay raise vote

There is no record on a videotape of the proceedings of Councilman Grabinski saying he felt sick or asking to be excused for sickness or any other reason.

When asked by a PT reporter about his action on the night it occurred, Councilman Grabinski did not say he was sick but said "no comment." After a PT editorial criticized his conduct, Grabinski sent a "letter to the editor" that nowhere mentions being sick but asserts, "I had actually excused myself from the meeting nearly an hour before the vote was taken."

But Councilmembers can't excuse themselves. The Muni Code requires Councilmembers to obtain the Mayor's permission to exit an ongoing meeting, a provision probably not meant to strain bladders but to discourage politicians from walking on votes (which Councilman Grabinski denies doing on this vote).

In response to a query from asking whether Councilman Grabinski had permission to leave, Mayor O'Neill said today:

"This is not a section I have enforced unless we are close to losing a quorum."

She added that "the next day, he [Councilman Grabinski] did tell me he had felt sick."

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