Davenport Civil Rights Commission (DCRC) Director Latrice Lacey is really good at shell games when she is trying to get her way.
Four of the mayor's newly appointed commissioners arrived at yesterday's commission meeting ready to conduct business based on their belief that participation by four commissioners formed the quorum required to have the meeting without participation from the three commissioners whose eligibility is question.
The four voted on agenda items and that's when Lacey stepped in and said according to Iowa state law you actually need five commissioners for a quorum. According to the QC Times, the city code does not identify what constitutes a quorum but state law requires two-thirds participation, which would be five out of seven commissioners, not four.
While all that may be true, a review of DCRC meeting minutes puts the commission on record of recognizing four commissioners as a quorum. According to DCRC meeting minutes posted online, the DCRC conducted meetings with only four commissioners present on October 9, 2018, April 10, 2018, March 13, 2018, February 13, 2018, January 9, 2018, December 12, 2017, October 10, 2017, July 11, 2017, and March 14, 2017.
And, in the meeting minutes for four of those meetings, immediately preceding the list of four "commissioners present", the introductory portion of the minutes notes that "a quorum was met". Additionally, in the New Business section of minutes from the April 10, 2018 meeting, "Although there was a quorum present, the commissioners tabled the decision (on a Memorandum of Understanding between the DCRC and the Davenport Community Advisory Panel) until the director and possibly all the commissioners could be present for discussion prior to a vote."
It should be noted that I did an online query for meeting minutes from July 1, 2015, to present but not all the meeting minutes were available online. No meeting minutes have been posted for any 2019 meetings, some minutes were omitted in 2017 and 2018, and the earliest minutes I could acquire were for the March 14, 2017 meeting. So what I am saying is, there may be more meetings in which business was conducted with a quorum of four.
The problem this presents (besides another issue to resolve by the parties - probably in court) is that Latrice Lacey has now called into question any and all business conducted by four-commissioner quorums. If, as Lacey says, five commissioners are required by state law for a quorum, does that invalidate all previous four-commissioner quorum business? Or, by the commission being on record of conducting business with four-commissioner quorums (even noting "a quorum was met"), has the DCRC established that only four are needed even though the city code doesn't specify it? If so, then the DCRC should be able to immediately resume meetings with a four-commissioner quorum.
It should also be noted that important business has been conducted with a four-commissioner quorum and significant decisions and actions will now be called into question - and likely overturned - if Lacey stays the course on her five commissioner requirement. Sure, some of the business conducted at the meetings was routine, like approving the meeting agenda and approving meeting minutes. But how can you have a meeting and approve minutes if participation by only four commissioners does not meet a quorum? Will all agenda items for those meetings need to be re-addressed?
Some DCRC business that could be called into question includes:
OCTOBER 9, 2018 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report, authorization and approval of the 2020 budget process, and approval of a new Iowa Civil Rights Commission Contract (ICRC).
APRIL 10, 2018 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report (despite some report-related concerns addressed at the meeting) and the tabling of new business related to the Davenport Community Advisory Panel.
MARCH 13, 2018 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report, motion to proceed with case E-0002-0001-15 despite Paul Macek's request (during public comments) to postpone that vote, and responses to Alderwoman Rawson and Devan Patel during the public comment portion of the meeting (how can the commission's responses be valid if only four commissioners were present, if that's not a quorum?)
FEBRUARY 13, 2018 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report, consideration of the Palmer PID rezoning addressed in New Business, and public comment from Dennis Platt. Additionally, a closed session was held during this meeting.
JANUARY 9, 2018 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report.
DECEMBER 12, 2017 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report, consideration of case E-0038-0017-15 for public hearing, and public comment from Gayle Haun regarding that case.
OCTOBER 10, 2017 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report and tabling of the vote to replace DCRC chairperson.
JULY 11, 2017 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report and the wage increase for the DCRC Director, Latrice Lacey.
MARCH 14, 2017 MEETING: Acceptance of the Director's report and oral argument presented by Wendi Meyer regarding case E-0036-0019-14.
Lacey might think playing a shell game with quorum numbers serves her well but considering all this, what is she risking by doing so? She's really put herself in a pickle this time!