For a vote that did not change the outcome of the council’s decision one way or another, Rochelle Swanson’s vote on the MRAP decision by council to return the vehicle continues to generate discussion and intrigue.
Under Robert’s Rules of Order, a member has the ability to change their vote after the fact so long as no one objects. What has been less clear is what actually transpired on Tuesday night.
We provide a video clip below, but this is what we see as happening:
- Dan Wolk calls the question
- Rochelle Swanson appears to mouth “aye”
- At the end of the vote Mayor Dan Wolk turns to the councilmember to ask if she voted “no” and Rochelle Swanson laughs
- Dan Wolk states motion passes 4-1 with Councilmember Lee in dissent
- Rochelle Swanson then calls for a break
- Mayor Dan Wolk talks about process
- Seven minutes later the video comes back on
- Dan Wolk says “I want to correct the record.” He then says “I think I misheard Councilmember Swanson’s vote, but Councilmember Swanson intended to abstain on the vote that we just took”
- At this point only three councilmembers are on the dais – Lucas Frerichs and Brett Lee have not come back from break
- Dan Wolk then asks City Attorney Harriet Steiner if that’s sufficient – we cannot see on the video what she says, but from the mayor’s reaction, she is all right with the process
- Rochelle Swanson then briefly explains her abstention
There is some confusion at a several points here. The first is whether Councilmember Swanson voted “aye” initially. One of her colleagues told me that they thought they heard her say “aye,” but Councilmember Swanson says she said “um.”
Second, she did not appear to dispute Mayor Wolk’s declaring it a 4-1 vote. The simplest way to have handled it at that moment was to state that she was abstaining. Mayor Wolk appeared confused even at the time, asking the councilmember whether she was a no and at that moment she laughed rather than clarifying her vote.
Third, she did appear to call for a break.
Mayor Wolk declined comment and directed the Vanguard to speak with Councilmember Swanson. Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, the only other councilmember there, also declined comment.
Rochelle Swanson expressed her dismay that a procedural question would linger on such an important issue for the community, and told the Vanguard:
There seems to be a lot of speculation regarding my abstention. I did not feel comfortable supporting the motion as I feel we have yet to fully assess the underlying issues that led to the procurement of the MRAP. The process has been poor for this entire issue and I feel we, as a Council, need to right the ship by providing deliberations and a full hearing of the issues. This item was rushed to be the first item back from recess due to the surprise nature of the procurement. Further, I did not want to vote against the motion and be characterized of supporting the retention of the MRAP. I did not vote yes or no. Only three voices are recorded voting yes. There was a misunderstanding by the Mayor I voted yes and we quickly moved forward. I immediately requested a break and caucused with the City Attorney as to the appropriate remedy. At the return from recess the proper vote was recorded and I reiterated my frustration and displeasure of the process.
Watch the full video below and decide for yourself:
—David M. Greenwald reporting