Hyattsville residents blasted the City Council for failing to meet quorum Monday during a work session about a controversial plan to place sidewalks in University Hills.
Six of the 10 council members, or the mayor and five council members, must be present for a quorum to be achieved. Without a quorum, the council could not conduct any public business aside from taking public comment, said Council President Matthew McKnight (Ward 3), who attended the session.
Five of the 10 council members were present.
McKnight said Mayor Marc Tartaro was unable to attend the session because he was sick. Tartaro did not return requests for comment by Tuesday.
Councilman Eric Wingard (Ward 1) told The Gazette he was out of town due to his job with NASA, and Councilwoman Paula J. Perry (Ward 4) said she was caring for an injured family member. Council members Carlos Lizanne (Ward 4) and Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5) were also absent and did not return requests for comment by Tuesday.
“It’s a crime against the citizens,” said John C. Mather of University Hills. “A lot of neighbors came out for this. The city wants to spend a lot of money to do something the neighbors don’t want.”
The work session was expected to address the University Hills Green Street Project, which would repave roads, add a sidewalk to most neighborhood streets and allow a walkway for disabled residents. A city ordinance passed in 2006, the same year the city annexed University Hills, requires sidewalks on at least one side of all city streets, where installation is possible.
Several of the estimated 15 residents who attended the work session described council members’ absences as “intentional.”
McKnight said the council has been trying to discuss the sidewalk issue for several weeks but keeps getting delayed by scheduling and other reasons. He said he hopes the council will be able to discuss the issue before they have to approve the fiscal 2014 budget in May.
McKnight said all public comments from the work session were recorded for use in future council discussions.
Hyattsville resident David Marshall, who supports sidewalks throughout University Hills, said that while he did not share many other residents’ opinion on sidewalks, he shared their disgust that more council members were not present.
This is the second time the council has failed to meet quorum within the last two years of its administration, said Councilman Timothy Hunt (Ward 3), who was present at the session and called the lack of quorum “embarrassing.”
“I can’t say any residents’ tax dollars are being well-spent right now,” he said.
Whether the council will have a sidewalk discussion at its meeting on Monday depends on the mayor since he sets the agenda, said Councilwoman Shani Warner (Ward 2). She said council members have also considered tabling the issue until after the May election.