CANTON — Four Canton City Council members failed to show up Thursday night to vote on whether or not to uphold the mayor’s veto of a study into the city’s fire service woes, causing the meeting to be canceled and leaving confusion over the fate of the veto.
The City Council was set to either sustain or strike down Mayor Gene Hobgood’s veto of a $14,000 study by a third-party agency into how to fund new fire stations in the city at a called meeting at 6 p.m. and then take on a particularly loaded agenda at the regular meeting at 6:15.
But with only Councilmen Hooky Huffman and Glen Cummins in attendance, a majority vote on any item was not possible.
Hobgood said Thursday night after the would-be meetings that he chose to veto the fire services study because a recent review of Canton’s fire services proved that the city should be in no rush to build more stations.
Rumors ran through City Hall that the other members of the council had chosen to not show up for the meeting as part of a boycott to show their disapproval of Hobgood’s veto, but all four have explanations.
Councilmen Jack Goodwin and John Beresford both had medical issues come up in their families, Huffman said Thursday night.
Cummins said Bill Bryan was out of town, and he had “no idea” why Bob Rush was absent.
Rush said Friday morning that he “wasn’t feeling well.”
Now, city officials and staff are trying to determine if the cancellation of the called meeting on the veto means that is sustained, or if another called meeting should be scheduled.
Hobgood said based on his understanding of the city’s charter, the no-shows sustained his veto by default.
“The bottom line is they failed to override (the veto) at this meeting, which was set up in accordance with the charter,” Hobgood said. “The veto’s been sustained by failure to override it.”
“If we don’t have a quorum, it’s the same as sustaining the veto,” he said. “The issue is done.”
Rush, though, said based on his understanding of the charter, the issue is not done.
“It’s not sustained,” he said. “There was no meeting. The meeting has to be reinstituted and then the vote taken.”
Canton’s charter gives the mayor the authority to veto any ordinance passed by the City Council within 10 days of the council’s vote.
Should the mayor use this power, the City Council then has to vote at its next meeting — or in this case, a called meeting — to either sustain the veto or override it.
If the council votes to deny the mayor’s veto, “the ordinance shall become effective immediately and shall not be subject to any further veto by the mayor,” Canton’s charter states.
But the charter does not cover what happens if there aren’t enough council members at that meeting to vote.
Even City Attorney Bobby Dyer, who drafted the amendment to the charter giving the mayor veto power, admitted there is room for debate.
Dyer said Friday his opinion is that Thursday’s meetings being canceled sustains the mayor’s veto, but he couldn’t be sure, as the charter makes no mention of such a situation.
“I don’t know if I’m right or wrong,” he said.