Updated at 2:30 p.m. — City Councilman Mo Seifeldein abruptly left Tuesday night’s Council meeting after a brief argument with Mayor Justin Wilson.
The argument took place during the public comment portion of the meeting. Seifeldein wanted to question Allison and Greg Ricketts about their concerns that their home is being damaged due to construction at the Sunrise of Old Town assisted living facility. The couple say that the city’s Department of Code Enforcement issued the facility with a certificate of occupancy, while necessary repairs to their property are ignored.
After a brief discussion, the mayor said that the couple used their allotted three minutes to speak during the public hearing, wanted to move on and denied Seifeldein’s request to question the couple.
“We have a private legal matter between a property owner and an adjacent property owner,” Wilson said at the meeting. “They have been in settlement talks for quite a while, including the offer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle this matter and they’ve been unable to come to an agreement. I don’t think it serves the interest of the city in the course of a public hearing to have that private negotiation be carried out in a public meeting.”
Seifeldein disagreed, and said that it was his right to question the property owner, and that he’d never participated in a meeting where he could not ask questions.
“Madam city attorney I’m going to exit the meeting, because clearly the mayor does not intend for this council member to speak or be part of this council,” Seifeldein told City Attorney Joanna Anderson. “I cannot continue to be part of this. If you’re going to be a city and a council of laws and rules and regulation, you have to apply them equally to all members. You cannot make up rules on the spot…”
Seifeldein then left the virtual meeting.
Councilman John Taylor Chapman was then recognized, and read the rules on Council meeting procedures from the city code. The rules state that the mayor is allowed to deny a council member’s request. However, the council member can appeal that decision, which the entire body can then vote on.
“For the information of everybody, the mayor is correct,” Chapman said.
Wilson has not spoken with Seifeldein since the meeting, and did not say whether he plans to do so.
“I’ll leave my private conversations private,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I believe my comments yesterday speak for themselves as to what occurred. We’ll leave it at that. I’m moving forward, as always.”
Seifeldein briefly intended to run against Wilson for mayor this year, and instead decided to leave elected politics. He did not respond to ALXnow’s questions.
On Twitter, Seifeldein said that he continued to watch the meeting.
“In a Democratic body, rules, regulations, and established procedure(s) apply equally to all members and as a consequence these rules cannot be changed arbitrarily or capriciously to silence an elected official,” Seifeldein wrote. “There are rules and mechanism(s) to change or suspend such rules, which are apparently not known to the City. I showed real leadership by doing what’s best for the City so the Council business can continue. I watched the meeting.”
Seifeldein also wrote this on Facebook:
“In a Democratic body, rules, regulations, and established procedure apply equally to all members and as a consequence these rules cannot be changed arbitrarily or capriciously to silence an elected official. There are procedures and mechanism to change or suspend such rules, which are apparently not known to the City. I showed real leadership by doing what’s best for the City so the Council business can continue. I am troubled by this anti-democratic posture.”
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