Westminster City Council To Consider Monthly Meetings

JEFF ANTENORE, Voice of OC

Westminster City Council Chambers.

Westminster city council members Wednesday will consider a plan to cut their public meetings down to just once a month.

As part of their regularly scheduled city council meeting, members will consider a motion to change their current meeting schedule of twice-a-month to once-a-month.

Westminster City Clerk Christine Cordon said the changes are staff driven and was proposed by her.

According to a city staff report, less meetings would allow staff more time to review the agenda packet and to release it to the public earlier.

However, some Westminster residents are concerned that fewer meetings will result in less public comment and oversight.

“We’ve given the staff raises, we’ve done what we can with the tax increase to get their pay up and all of that, and I can’t imagine why they can’t handle the same as every other city in Orange County,” said Terry Rains, a Westminster resident.

Rains also pointed out that even with the current schedule, there isn’t always time for all of the items on the city’s agenda.

“At the last meeting, it went until 1:10 a.m. we didn’t get to half of the agenda, so they had to continue it to this meeting,” Rains said. “We can’t even get to the business we have on the agenda with two (meetings) a month.”

Terry Francke, founder of Californians Aware and Voice of OC’s open government and public records consultant, said that the move could impact the public’s ability to keep an eye on official’s decisions.

“It’s not only a shrinkage of the window that people have on what their city is discussing and deciding, it also runs the risk of tempting the council to meet secretly in some way,” Francke said. “They only have one formal meeting a month, and things may need to be decided between those periods.”

The staff report also concluded that the extended time would let city staff provide agendas up to two weeks ahead of time for the public, but Francke thinks that the advanced agendas won’t help.

“On that kind of schedule, the things that were set up for the agenda at the beginning of the month may actually change by the time the one meeting comes around.”

The only other cities in Orange County that meet monthly are, Villa Park, Los Alamitos, and the city of Orange, with Orange being the only one of those cities approximately Westminster’s size.

Orange Chief Clerk Robert Zornado says that the policy largely doesn’t affect the city clerk’s office with preparing for meetings, it just changes the timing.

“We have the same amount of work, it’s just about whether we spread it amongst two meetings or one. Same amount of contracts, same amount of resolutions, same amount of ordinances,” Zornado said.

Zornado said that the meeting schedule doesn’t limit the clerk’s office ability to perform their jobs.

“We would have two smaller rushes if we did two meetings, vs one large rush with the large meeting. So it’s just different,” Zornado said. “We’re not unable to do our job either way, we can perform that perfectly in either case, so it’s just totally up to the city council.