Roswell mayor mutes councilman, blocks his vote, during virtual meeting

Conversation on a one-time compensation to city employees escalated to yelling during the virtual meeting, where council members were in their respective offices at City Hall and Mayor Lori Henry communicated with them from a boardroom.
Conversation on a one-time compensation to city employees escalated to yelling during the virtual meeting, where council members were in their respective offices at City Hall and Mayor Lori Henry communicated with them from a boardroom.

In an event that is surely a sign of how we behave in a socially-distant world, Roswell’s mayor muted a city councilman during a virtual meeting, blocking him from voting on staff bonuses.

During Monday’s city council meeting on whether to approve $1.5 million in a one-time bonus for city workers, tempers flared as the debate on the matter turned into a shouting match. Council members were in their respective offices at City Hall as Mayor Lori Henry communicated with them from a boardroom during the virtual meeting.

During the discussions, Henry muted the sound for Councilman Mike Palermo’s feed and prevented him from voting on the measure.

“Monday night could’ve been a very productive dialogue if there had been a willingness to discuss the transparency aspect,” Palermo said. “At the very least an interest to work together instead of pushing an agenda and taking control.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was unable to reach Henry for comment. City spokeswoman Julie Brechbill said the mayor was within her rights as a presiding officer to mute Palermo’s audio and continue with the vote.

“She is the presiding officer,” Brechbill said. “She sets the rules. She’s charged with maintaining order and running the meeting smoothly."

The council approved the bonus amount, which will be paid out to employees who earn less than $100,000 a year. The council will discuss bonuses for employees making more than that on Nov. 23.

Henry, who supported the bonus plan, said during the meeting that many employees are dealing with financial uncertainty because of the pandemic and could use the cash. The bonuses would also show that city officials appreciate those workers who are not able to work from home, she said.

Palermo and other members wanted to delay the vote for two weeks in order to gain more insight into how the bonuses would be distributed. He also asked to discuss additional raises for first responders.

Bonuses were briefly mentioned in a slide presentation by finance director Ryan Luckett during an Oct. 26 work session, but no amount was included at that time. Monday was the first public discussion of the bonus amount, council members said.

City Council received documents at the end of last week which indicated the bonus would be up for a vote Monday, Henry said during the meeting, repeatedly adding that her fellow legislators were unprepared.

“If you pay attention to the level of questions of this council,” Councilman Marcelo Zapata said at Monday’s meeting, “You will realize that we are all prepared, but we are not ready to vote.”

Council members approved the $1.5 million amount for staffers making less than $100,000. But Palermo was blocked from voting when he asked for more discussion on the matter.

“Excuse me, you’re out of order again Mr. Palermo,” Henry said. “I’m not quite certain what it is about this process that you’re having trouble with. We’ve got a motion, we’ve got a second and I’ve called for a vote.”

Palermo was attempting to make a case for more time when Henry muted his sound and carried out the vote.

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