On Wednesday night, a four-member special committee of the Bloomington city council met to consider the possible removal of Greg Alexander from the city’s traffic commission.
The outcome of the committee’s deliberations included scheduling two more meetings, both of them before a deadline of March 1. The full council set the deadline when it referred to the committee a motion for Alexander’s removal, which was made at the council’s Feb. 1 meeting.
The next committee meetings are scheduled for Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. and Feb. 23 at 8 a.m.
The motion for removal was made by Dave Rollo—that Alexander be removed from the city’s traffic commission, for “posting obscene and inappropriate statements…that are unbecoming of an appointed member of a public body…”
Rollo is a member of the special committee, which council president Sue Sgambelluri established and appointed at the first meeting of the year. The purpose of the committee on council processes is to review matters like meeting procedures—that is, it was not created to review Alexander’s case.
Rollo has recused himself from participation in the committee’s work, because he does not want to be accused of bias against Alexander.
The membership of the committee appointed by Sgambelluri includes Matt Flaherty as chair, plus the three officers of the council: Sgambelluri (president); Isabel Piedmont-Smith (vice president); and Rollo (parliamentarian).
At Wednesday’s meeting, the committee tried to scope out what kinds of issues should be covered in the report that it makes to the full council, which is due no later than March 1, when the council has a regular meeting scheduled.
The traffic commission is an advisory board that, among other things, recommends to the city council and other city officials ways to improve traffic conditions and the enforcement of traffic regulations.
The postings to which Rollo’s motion referred included statements that Alexander posted on twitter.com following the council’s decision last year to install additional stop signs at the intersection of Sheridan Drive and Maxwell Lane in the Elm Heights neighborhood.
At Wednesday’s committee meeting, Flaherty sketched out some ideas for the scope of the committee’s work. For potential inclusion in the council’s report, Flaherty listed out a series of topics.
- clarification of the difference between factors that are relevant for appointing and re-appointing versus removing someone from a board or commission
- distinction between those boards and commissions where members serve “at the pleasure” of the city council, and those for which members can be removed only “for cause.”
- description of legal issues like freedom of speech
- recommendations on a due process to be followed in cases of “for cause” removal, informed by a fresh Indiana court of appeals decision issued on Feb. 3, 2022 [Waller v. City of Madison]
- relevance of possible precedent set by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s removal of a member of the parking commission, almost immediately after he was appointed two years ago
- recommendations on changes to city code that could include the recommended due process and possibly a code of conduct for board and commission members
- clarification about which statements by Alexander are specifically referred to Rollo’s motion for removal
Based on Wednesday’s committee deliberations, it sounds like Rollo, as the maker of the motion to remove Alexander, will be asked to list out the specific statements he wants the council to consider, including any that indicate potential bias by Alexander against one neighborhood of the city.
The motion could wind up being revised so that it includes a list of the specific statements, as opposed to a characterization of them as “inappropriate” or “obscene.”
Flaherty said Rollo, as the maker of the motion, would be best suited for determining the set of statements the council is supposed to consider, when it weighs whether to remove Alexander.
After that motion is revised and made again, at some upcoming council meeting, Alexander might be given the opportunity to respond in writing to the specific allegations.
Council attorney Stephen Lucas told the committee he had already let Alexander know that any written comments that he wanted to submit would be shared with all councilmembers. Lucas indicated that Alexander had written to the council to tell them what he had written on Twitter.
During public commentary, Christopher Emge said he did not have a view on Alexander’s removal, but did weigh in for a potential due process that includes some kind of “censure” that stops short of removal. Emge told the committee he was speaking as a resident, not as the director of advocacy for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.
Also addressing the committee on Wednesday night during public commentary was councilmember Steve Volan, who also supported the idea of building into the due process the option of some intermediate step, a formal admonishment, that could be seen as a step on the way to eventual removal.