SUPPRESSION of Other Councilmembers’ Views
Signals a Dangerous Escalation of Tactics by Meier
By: Susan M. Halpern
(Addison councilmember 1992 – 99)
Todd Meier is spinning increasingly out of control. On February 14, 2017, Meier intentionally disrupted Addison’s government, PRECLUDING other councilmembers from participating in the meeting. Those who might conduct business in Addison are watching this Meier Gong Show, and likely deciding that other nearby communities are far better options. I have said before that it will take years for Addison to recover from the damage Meier is doing. That has never been more evident than during the past month. Let’s talk about it.
On February 14, 2017, Addison’s Council considered the proposed AMLI development. Meier opposed it, but perceived that the Council would likely approve it. As a member of a seven-person Council, Meier’s job at that point should have been to make his case as a part of a respectful deliberation amongst the seven elected representatives. But Meier doesn’t operate within the rules, so he instead abused the process, disrupted the meeting, and employed every trick he could think of to PREVENT THE COUNCIL FROM VOTING on the AMLI matter.
Think about that for a moment. One person sitting on a SEVEN-PERSON GOVERNMENTAL BODY abused his position as the presiding officer to PREVENT THE COUNCIL FROM VOTING on a matter placed before it. Because that one person disagreed with the result. Someone please explain to me how that complied with Addison’s Charter.
Meier repeatedly tried to table the matter. Meier falsely claimed that the Council was rushing things. Meier tried to move to other Agenda items in the middle of the AMLI discussion, an effort to force the AMLI discussion to the post-midnight time period. When none of that worked, Meier filibustered, talking endlessly and repetitively in a clear effort to run the Council out of time. At one point, Meier even commented that he was willing to stay at the meeting until he had to leave to catch a 6:45 a.m. flight, a clear threat to hold the rest of the Council hostage until the following morning. Meier falsely suggested that the Council’s consideration of the AMLI development was premature, and that the process lacked transparency, arguments that infuriated many West-side residents who experienced government shoved down their throats in connection with the Addison Grove development.
Meier abusively, rudely and unprofessionally interrogated the AMLI representatives. Meier asked inflammatory and argumentative questions, but then cut off all efforts by the AMLI reps to provide reasonable and necessary explanations. Meier asked multiple questions that were clearly designed to take up time, when the point to be made could have been made in one sentence.
But then, the point wasn’t to get information. It was all a show. Two weeks later, at the Council’s February 28, 2017 meeting, Meier admitted that he knew the answers to “many” questions he asked, and that his purpose in asking them was FOR THE VIDEO. In other words, Meier admitted that was grandstanding. Putting on a production for the cameras.
Meier SUPPRESSED THE VIEWS OF OTHER MEMBERS OF THE COUNCIL, repeatedly resisting their efforts to draw the meeting back to some semblance of order, including so as to allow them to participate. Meier instead forced the other six elected councilmembers to sit silently observing Meier’s hours of questioning, without any opportunity to ask their own questions. Indeed, the Council was NEVER permitted to engage in a bona fide discussion or deliberation. The entire matter was dominated by Meier to the exclusion of any legitimate Council process. It was no less than a hostile takeover of our democratic form of government.
And, in what must be recognized as DANGEROUS and unprecedented conduct, Meier PROHIBITED COUNCILMEMBER BRUCE ARFSTEN FROM MAKING A MOTION. To my knowledge, that has never happened in the history of Addison’s council. Until now.
Make no mistake about it, Meier’s reprehensible conduct was in no way a bona fide effort to preside over a Council meeting. Meier hijacked the meeting because he perceived that a MAJORITY of the Council was going to approve the AMLI development. And Meier disagreed with the MAJORITY of the Council. Meier abused his position as the presiding officer in an effort to bend the Council to his imperialistic will. It was no less than a hostile takeover of our government.
And it was also yet another abuse of the Council process by Meier to CREATE faux campaign issues. It’s the same nonsense we saw last year, when Meier abused the Council process to create a campaign of lies. Back then, Meier had his shill accountant disparage prior management, all while actively and improperly concealing Lea Dunn’s key memo in violation of the Open Records Act, because it would have exposed (AND ULTIMATELY DID EXPOSE) the campaign of lies. And, by the way, we later learned that Meier had also CONCEALED the fact that the day before the accountant issued his original report, he was on the phone with Meier discussing the contents of that report. Sound like an “objective” expert to you? It was all a setup, with Meier concealing the facts to accomplish it. The February 14th meeting was taken from the same playbook.
Which brings us to the Council’s February 28, 2017 meeting. Just prior to the meeting, Meier added cryptic agenda items regarding decorum, ethics and transparency, providing no notice to the Council or the public as to what he had in mind. More “Agenda By Ambush,” a favored Meier tactic.
It didn’t take long to figure out. Meier executed the classic “best defense is a good offense” strategy. Meier again grandstanded for the cameras, now claiming that the efforts made by other councilmembers to restore order on February 14th were “interruptions” that “victimized” Meier. It was utter nonsense, but a classic Meier effort to justify his clearly unjustifiable conduct. And, of course, Meier forced the Council to endure yet another excruciating, lengthy, word-by-word, line-by-line review of the Council procedures, using the exercise as a springboard for leveling more attacks on the other councilmembers.
Don’t be fooled. The problem isn’t the wording of the Council procedures. Or the rules regarding ethics. Or the laws relating to transparency. The problem is sitting in the middle of the dais. The problem is that Addison has a dictatorial mayor who has neither time nor regard for rules relating to decorum, ethics and transparency.
The problem is that Meier is the “lowest common denominator,” the person who continually plots to circumvent laws, rules, ordinances or regulations. NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY. And in all that I have written, I have made a strong case for the proposition that when Meier can’t find a way around the rules, he just ignores them. One example was when then City Attorney John Hill concluded that Meier had violated Addison’s Ethics Ordinance by using his “official position” in connection with the 2014 campaign. Meier did three things in response. First, Meier claimed he and the Council had excused themselves from compliance with the Ordinance’s standard (“official position”), and had instead agreed that the standard applicable to them would be lower (don’t use “title”). Second, Meier sought to have a motion passed purporting to absolve him, even as Attorney John Hill repeatedly advised that the Council had no authority to do that. Meier presided over this agenda item despite the clear conflict of interest. The motion was ultimately withdrawn. Third, Meier then led the Council to lower the standard in the Ethics Ordinance to match their chosen conduct.
As for now, CHANGING THE RULES IN THE FACE OF A “LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR” DOESN’T FIX THE PROBLEM, INCLUDING BECAUSE IT TREATS THE SYMPTOMS, NOT THE DISEASE.
Meier’s refusal to allow a councilmember to make a motion and his exclusion of council members from participation in the discussion were frontal assaults on our democratic form of government. Such conduct was outrageous and deeply disturbing. Our Charter establishes a Council of SEVEN representatives, all having AN EQUAL opportunity to participate in discussion and deliberation of the business of Addison. Meier actively and intentionally prevented that from happening on February 14th, and he needs to be held to account for his actions.
Meier’s conduct has dangerous implications. Meier is sending a clear message that he will spend his remaining weeks in office undermining and disrupting the business of the Council. We must all demand compliance with our Charter, and action to prevent a sitting mayor from interfering in the conduct of Addison’s business. You can make a difference by expressing your disapproval of such tactics.
And, we now see the campaign that Meier will be directing for his chosen candidates. They will attack the decision to approve the AMLI development, and they will claim that they alone can “restore” council decorum. The beauty of this entire escapade is that Addison’s residents can watch the February 14th meeting and make their own judgments about Meier’s conduct and “decorum.” I submit that Meier’s conduct was inexcusable, and that it in no way met any standard of decorum that exists.
It has never been more important for Addison to seek leadership that condemns such tactics and commits to being a constructive part of our democratic form of government.