ROSWELL, Ga. — A City Council discussion on Mimosa Hall veered off topic Feb. 24 when the mayor and some council members questioned the item’s placement on the meeting agenda.
On Feb. 21, the Friday before the regular City Council meeting, Councilman Mike Palermo added two items to the agenda: a discussion on opening Mimosa Hall to the public and whether council members can open city facilities to host town halls.
The grounds of Mimosa Hall are currently open upon reservation. Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Leatherman explained the grounds are not open completely to the public at this time because of safety concerns that staff is working to address.
Because of the timing of the topic, Leatherman said he had to pull four staff members from their duties on Friday and work approximately 30-45 hours to consolidate the information for the City Council. He said he worked about 15 hours over the weekend to assemble a presentation on the topic.
After his presentation about the property and restoration efforts, the conversation quickly veered to how the discussion item was placed on the agenda.
“I don’t know how this was elevated or what the urgency is to put this on a council meeting [agenda] and circumvent the process,” said Mayor Lori Henry.
Palermo said he agreed with Henry that it should have been a committee topic and that he originally tried to place it on the Feb. 26 Community Development and Transportation Committee meeting agenda, but his request was denied.
He added that Mimosa Hall, which the city bought in 2017 for nearly $3 million, was a large investment for taxpayers and he wanted citizens to be aware of the historic property’s status for the sake of transparency. Councilman Marcelo Zapata agreed with Palermo.
Henry said the item would not have been an appropriate topic for a Community Development and Transportation Committee meeting. Rather, it should come before the Administration, Finance, and Recreation and Parks Committee, she said.
“I personally think that this is not transparent, because we have taken something out of the usual process to discuss it.” Henry said. “If people are looking at transportation projects, they’re never in a million years going to think that Mimosa Hall is going to be on that agenda.”
The next Administration, Finance, and Recreation and Parks Committee meeting is scheduled for March 10.
Council members Matthew Tyser and Matt Judy agreed with the mayor.
“I don’t see a single reason why we can’t discuss this in two weeks other than a continued desire to avoid proper process,” Tyser said.
This is not Palermo’s first foray into council meeting agendas.
At the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, members had voted to reinstate unofficial transcriptions of certain city meetings, but the decision went to the City Council before it was brought up for discussion at a committee meeting scheduled for Jan. 14.
At the Jan. 27 City Council meeting, Judy, Tyser and Councilwoman Marie Willsey abstained from voting on a 90-day moratorium on conditional-use applications for multi-family housing units. The item had not gone through proper channels, Judy said. The item had been placed on the agenda the prior Friday afternoon by Palermo and had not gone to committee first.
Henry said at the Feb. 24 meeting that a problem had been created that did not need to exist.
“I’d like to see this council working together,” Henry said. “I’d like to see this council communicating with each other. I’d like to see this council working to gain consensus on issues. And through that process, I believe that a level of trust among the elected officials can be built. But until we go down that road, I’m not seeing this as improving. I’m seeing this as very detrimental to getting the city’s work done.”
Because the Mimosa Hall item had been added as a discussion-only topic, there was no vote at the Feb. 24 meeting.
However, council members held a similar conversation regarding another item Palermo added the prior Friday. The topic involved whether council members can open city facilities for town halls. The council voted unanimously to add the item to the Feb. 26 Community Development and Transportation Committee meeting for discussion.