Mayhem at City Council Meeting

Councilman Stephen Jones and Councilwoman Johnette Jameson rise to leave after Mayor Deborah Hodge adjurns the city council meeting she called ‘in violation of the city charter’.  (Photo by Scott Hansen)

Councilman Stephen Jones and Councilwoman Johnette Jameson rise to leave after Mayor Deborah Hodge adjurns the city council meeting she called ‘in violation of the city charter’. (Photo by Scott Hansen)

DUNCANVILLE, TX – Tuesday evening at the City Council Meeting Mayor Pro Tem Cooks subverted the City Charter and usurped the Mayor’s authority by presiding over the City Council meetings.
Within minutes of the Briefing Meeting Mayor Hodge adjourned the meeting with the following statement:
“Welcome. I am Mayor Deborah Hodge. It is now 6:00 pm. There is a quorum present and I call to order the January 7th meeting of the Duncanville City Council. First, in order to minimize confusion for those who regularly attend our meetings, I will explain for you a major change in our meeting’s format. According to our agenda there is only one meeting scheduled for tonight and it is split into a work session and a regular session. This is different from the past when we would have two completely separate meetings that were both called to order and adjourned separately. Tonight, these two meetings have been combined into just one meeting and will have only one call to order and one adjournment.
Did I explain that correctly?
Now I have a prepared statement to read regarding open meetings and our agenda order.
As authorized by Section 551.071 of the Texas Government Code, this meeting may be convened into closed Executive Session for the purposes of seeking confidential legal advice from the City Attorney on any item on the agenda at any time during the meeting. The City of Duncanville reserves the right to reconvene recess or align the Regular Session or called Executive Session or order of business at any time prior to adjournment.
Sec 2.15 of our City Charter states, “The Council shall determine its own rules and order of business.”I have determined that this meeting is in violation of our City Charter and shall not continue.
We are adjourned.
It is now 6:03 pm”
At this time Councilmembers Jones and Jameson left the meeting. Councilmember Boyd attempted to register a point of order. The City Attorney initially ruled that the meeting had been adjourned and that no other business could be conducted. When pressed by the remaining councilmembers and the new interim City Manager the City Attorney reversed his ruling and stated that because a quorum was present the Mayor Pro Tem may lead the meeting. Mark Cooks proceeded with presiding over the meeting in Mayor Hodges presences. Mark Cooks continued with conducting the meeting out in the Council Chambers during the regular meeting. Mark Cooks commandeered the Mayor’s gavel and frequently and loudly gaveled the Mayor’s comments. At one point Cooks on his own motion asked the remaining councilmembers to vote for her not to speak. All remaining councilmembers voted to “no”.
During Citizen Comment time Fabian Johnson was forcibly removed by three Duncanville Policemen for attempting to address the Council. Mark Cooks produced a Temporary Restraining Order against Fabian during the meeting. Interestingly, Mr. Johnson sat directly behind Cooks during the Briefing Meeting without incident. Mr. Johnson was at the Council Meeting to inform the public about the criminal law suit pending against Mark Cooks. Mr. Johnson left the meeting to file a police report alleging Mr. Cooks threatened him by displaying a handgun case which he got from his vehicle.
Formal council member Judy Richards, expressed her dismay, disappointment, and anger at the actions of Boyd, Cooks, Harvey and Smith. She was appalled by their disregard for the charter.

Duncanville Police Office escorts Fabian Johnson from the council chamber. (Photo by Scott Hansen)

Duncanville Police Office escorts Fabian Johnson from the council chamber. (Photo by Scott Hansen)