Although not on the agenda for the May 15th Mayor & Council meeting, Mayor Accardi accepted the resignation of Ralph Ortiz from the Municipal Land Use Board (MLUB) effective four months previous – the date of Mr. Ortiz’s letter in January of this year.
The Mayor stated, “When I receive resignations, I tend to put them aside so that the people can think them over and this is one that I never put on the regular agenda.”
The back-dated resignation may cause an issue with an appeal filed by Jeannie Mendes-Doman on the application that was rejected by the MLUB in April.
Mr. Ortiz publicly stated at the April 21st MLUB meeting – where he spoke as a resident – that he had resigned from the board earlier in the year. He had previously recused himself from listening in on the application due to a personal interest in the matter, having circulated a petition to prevent the “Easy Fitness With Jeannie” from doing business at its location of 293 West Clay Avenue while on the Board.
More importantly, the unfilled vacancy meant that Ms. Mendes-Doman had her application heard by only five members of the MLUB due to conflicts of interest with several members who lived within the notification area. Had Mr. Ortiz’s resignation been publicly accepted in January, or even February or March, another member could have been appointed to allow for something less than a unanimous vote of five votes, which was needed to approve her application interpretation and variance.
Additionally, according to MLUB Bylaws, all members and alternates are to be present at every meeting. Scott Nicol, an alternate MLUB member, was not present at either the March or April meetings to allow for yet another member to listen in and vote on the application.
Article 8 of the MLUB bylaws states that “All Board members, including alternates, are expected to attend each meeting of the Board.” and that “Whenever a member or alternate member of the Board, without being excused by a majority of the authorized members of the Board, fails to attend and participate at meetings of the Board for a period of eight (8) consecutive weeks or for four (4) consecutive meetings, whichever is greater, at the conclusion of such period, the seat of such Board member shall be deemed vacant”.
According to this bylaw, Mr. Nicol, who was appointed as an alternate by Mayor Accardi on January 17, 2013, vacated his seat as of August 19, 2013 having missed four (4) consecutive meetings since the one he attended on February 4th; that one being the first meeting after his appointment to the Board. A review of attendance sheets shows that of 14 MLUB meetings since being appointed, Mr. Nicol has only been in attendance for three of them: February 4th and November 4th in 2013 and January 27th this year.
Even using Mr. Nicol’s attendance at the January 27, 2014 meeting, his seat became vacant after his fourth absence on April 21, 2014, the day of the second portion of Easy Fitness’ application hearing.
Taking into account the importance of the hearing, the mayor could have either made every effort to ensure that Mr. Nicol would be in attendance or appointed someone else to listen in as an alternate/voting member if Mr. Nicol offered no indication he would be available at that meeting.