After a perfect storm of events at led to the voting down of local blogger Said Deep's reappointment for City Plan Commission, city officials are stressing that this case is simply part of the democratic process.
The meeting was attended by five council members, and Council President Pro Tem Suzanne Sareini left early because of an illness. Deep's reappointment was voted on shortly after and, with only one vote against—casted by Council President Tom Tafelski, the measure fell short of the four votes required to pass.
Nonetheless, Mayor Jack O'Reilly, who had nominated Deep for reappointment, said the instance was just a part of city government.
“I don't want this issue to be construed as bigger than it is,” O'Reilly said. “Democracy happens.”
Because Sareini was feeling ill that night, Corporation Counsel Debra Walling—at the request of Tafelski and O'Reilly—presented the council with a list of urgent items that needed immediate effect, Walling said. Granting immediate effect requires five votes, and this shortlist allowed Sareini to leave the meeting early while still allowing council time to pass items with immediate effect.
“I will stay as long as you guys need me," Sareini recalled saying. "That's what I told Jack, that's what I told Debbie and she said I'll give him a list of what has to have immediate effect."
A large majority of items on Tuesday's agenda requested immediate effect, including Deep's reappointment, but not all of them needed the immediate effect that was requested, Walling said.
“None of the reappointments needed to be voted on,” she explained. “The plan commission doesn't mean again until after the next council meeting, actually. That's why none of the appointments got on the urgent list.”
Sareini said, however, that she would have voted for Deep's reappointment, but had forgotten it was the night's agenda.
“I would have stuck it out if I remembered,” Sareini said. “But … it wasn't really a hot-button issue.”
She also emphasized that the vote on Deep—while “unfortunate”—was nothing controversial.
“It was a pretty normal night; I just had a bug and didn't feel good,” Sareini said. “Honestly, I don't feel anybody did anything unusual.”
Despite voting against his reappointment, Tafelski said has vote had nothing to do with Deep's character or commitment. He added that Deep would make a good addition to another commission in the city.
“I think (Deep) is a great guy and I think he's dedicated to the commission,” Tafelski said.
Nonetheless, Tafelski said that it was innapropriate for Deep—who runs the local news blog deepSaidwhat.com—to be blogging about actions of the commission while serving on it.
“Because he has a blog, he is a unique individual where he can create controversy on issues prior to public meetings,” he said. “ and the mayor admitted that that was an issue.”
Tafelski said he felt there was no need to table to the vote on Deep's reappointment, despite the mayor's request for one at Tuesday's meeting.
“The item was called,” he said. “There's no reason to table it.”
Tafelski declined to comment on when it is or is not appropriate to table something.
Now that the reappointment vote failed, Walling said it is highly unlikely that Deep could be make it onto the City Plan commission now–despite Mayor O'Reilly's claim earlier this week that he would look into appealing the vote.
“The only way that the council can reconsider a vote that they've already taken is for someone on the prevailing side to make a motion for reconsideration,” she said. “I don't anticipate (Tafelski) making the motion for reconsideration.”
O'Reilly said the urgent list was put together hastily and including Deep's reappointment was simply not considered.
“We literally had about a minute and a half to figure out what things we could give to the clerk to call out of order and that's what we did,” he said. “This just didn't occur to me at the time. Obviously in hind sight, I should have put it up to the vote.”
Deep did not return calls seeking comment.