City manager report proposal divides Hannibal City Council; former councilman calls behavior a ‘spectacle’

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Jim Van Hoose addresses the Hannibal City Council during its Tuesday. | Screenshot from City of Hannibal's YouTube channel

HANNIBAL, Mo. — A former Hannibal councilman expressed concerns during Tuesday’s meeting of the Hannibal City Council regarding the council’s behavior, specifically referring to Feb. 21 meeting.

Jim Van Hoose watched the meeting on the City of Hannibal’s YouTube channel, where each meeting is live-streamed. He was specifically concerned with the behavior of the several council members, calling what he observed a “spectacle.”

The meeting Van Hoose referred to became heated soon after it was called to order when Councilman Mike Dobson moved to table a proposal for monthly reports to be provided by City Manager Lisa Peck.

“It hurts me to say this, but spectacle is the best I can think of to describe it,” Van Hoose said. “Watching the video of that meeting, I sat in disbelief about how several of the members were talking to each other in the public meeting. Talking loudly, shouting and talking over one another, making accusations and taunting.”

The monthly report has been hotly debated since the first of the year, and it was tabled again Tuesday. It has been on the agenda since January and continually tabled by all council members except councilmen Stephan Franke and Charles Phillips.

The councilmen voting to table the proposal say it is due to pending litigation, referring to Franke’s impeachment hearing scheduled for March 24.

April Azotea, owner of La Azotea Lounge, asked why the proposal is tabled due to litigation. She believe the litigation has nothing to do with the proposed monthly report of the city manager.

Phillips said the proposal does not conflict with the litigation. He said the monthly manager report was in practice until February 2002, and he asked the rest of the council why that had stopped.

“It was a very detailed and very informative document that in my review was extremely helpful in understanding in the day-to-day work of the city government,” he said. “This is nothing new. This is no new suggestion. It is simply asking to continue something that went on for a long time and suddenly stopped.”

Mayor James Hark said he voted no on Phillips’ and Franke’s proposal because he did not agree with the proposal in its current format.

“It might end up being a negotiated agreement — I don’t know — but as it was presented that night, I don’t agree with it,” Hark said.

Councilman Colin Welch said at Tuesday’s meeting he is receiving sufficient updates from the city manager through internal communication such as emails received regularly from the department heads. Welch also pointed out that the agenda items dealing with budget and payroll reported at every meeting also are business reported from the city manager.

Welch later told Muddy River News he believes the report is unnecessarily tedious and will cause the clerk to spend time keeping up on making reports during already-busy days.

“The current proposal will require her to detail every task, conversation or business she does throughout each day,” he said. “She has a secretary, but she doesn’t go everywhere with her.”

Azotea told the council she believes the city manager’s report would help with transparency to the public.

Franke echoed Azotea later when he spoke to Muddy River News. He called it unfortunate that the mayor and council are “enemies of transparency and accountability.”

“At first, (City) Council said a monthly report from the city would be a good idea, but we have to wait until the impeachment is over. Now they say it’s a bad idea. Charlie Phillips and I addressed their concerns, and they still voted no,” Franke said. “A constituent asked me the other day, ‘I wonder what they are hiding?’”

Welch insists the council is not hiding anything, but he believes members are legally bound not to comment because of the litigation.

Welch said the council is listening to and processing the questions and concerns brought up at the meetings. However, their hands are tied for now.

Welch said Hannibal citizens will have many questions answered when the litigation is over and they are allowed to release information. He said they are not trying to hold back information from the public. Rather, they are just waiting for the legal time to do so.

He also said a recent investigation regarding City Clerk Angelica Zerbonia is about to wrap up, and the public will then receive information on those findings.

Van Hoose said he doesn’t expect everyone to agree all the time, but he asks that meetings remain a good example to public. He said had two children in attendance for the Feb. 21 meeting. Van Hoose worried about what the kids might have taken away that night or what they told their friends at school the next day.

Welch agrees with Van Hoose’s request. He believes councilmen need to get along during the meetings and try to resolve issues more professionally.

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