The mayor pro tem could have avoided abruptly adjourning Wednesday’s Metro Council meeting if he had waited “a few minutes” for a council member to return to the chambers, according to the parish attorney’s office.
“He (Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker) was not legally required to adjourn,” Assistant Parish Attorney LeAnne Batson said. “He could have waited for a few minutes.”
In a rare turn of events, the Wednesday meeting ended at its halfway point after too many council members left the chambers and the quorum of seven was lost.
Within minutes of the quorum being lost, Walker announced the meeting was adjourned and told the audience he was legally obligated to end it.
Batson said the council cannot take official action without a quorum present, but added that it was a judgment call by the council chairman, which is Walker, to decide how long to wait before adjourning.
“We lost the quorum, they were gone and proper procedure is to adjourn,” Batson said. “In hindsight, some of them were coming back, but he had no way of knowing it.”
Council members Scott Wilson, C. Denise Marcelle and Ulysses “Bones” Addison were outside the council chambers having private conversations and Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois left to use the restroom.
Council members Chandler Loupe and Ronnie Edwards were absent from the meeting.
A special meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers to address the majority of Wednesday’s abandoned agenda.
Walker said he was under the impression that the meeting had to end when the quorum was lost.
“Every council has been that way,” he said. “It’s been instilled in all of us that that was the rule.”
He said it’s fruitless to speculate on whether he adjourned too quickly, but said the incident provided a good lesson to the full council about being aware of the quorum.
“Whether I would have done something different, who knows? What happened, happened,” he said. “It is a great experience for us because we should work toward never allowing that to happen again and be a whole lot more responsible.”
There is no state law that requires the meeting to end, but the Metro Council abides by Roberts Rules of Order, which is mandated in the city-parish code of ordinances.
Roberts Rules indicate that “once a meeting has been called to order with a quorum present and the quorum is subsequently lost, it is the duty of the chair to declare there is no quorum,” said Brian Mayers, council administrator.
“Once the quorum was lost, the chair announced this fact, and I believe persons in the chambers attempted to see if any council members were available to re-enter the room, which did not yield any results,” Mayers said.
Bourgeois said he didn’t think it was necessary to end the meeting, and added that he will not attend the special meeting because he already has plans.
“Personally, it’s just one man’s opinion, but I don’t think we had to adjourn like that,” he said. “I just left to go to the bathroom and when I came back they told me we were all leaving.”
Councilman Trae Welch said he thought a better effort could have been made to try to bring the council members back to their seats.
“It’s not like they’d left the building or gone to their offices, and it wasn’t like there was a vote up at the time. We were in the middle of debate,” Welch said.
Welch said he isn’t blaming Walker or other council members for ending the meeting early, rather he thinks there may have been a “misinterpretation” of facts that led to the quick decision to the adjournment.
“I think it was just an unfortunate chain of events that occurred as a quick reaction to the lost quorum,” he said.