Seeking common ground - Chamber, city officials call for new contract; mayor’s plan criticized

By Traci Chapman
Published on June 19, 2008

Mustang Chamber of Commerce leaders and City Council members vowed to “work together” to hammer out a contract between the two entities Tuesday.

Several members of the chamber’s executive board attended the Council meeting to discuss financial arrangements between the city and chamber. The need to draft a new agreement between the city and chamber came to light earlier this month, when it was discovered the chamber’s lease for its office at Mustang Town Center expired in 2004.

Questions first arose about the city-chamber relationship during budget sessions and the June 3 budget hearing when some Council members questioned the benefits of the arrangement between the two.

At the June 3 meeting, Landrith said, “I have a hard time with the chamber. I wish they were more on their own from a funding perspective. I think about who shows up to volunteer, and it is more those folks from outside of Mustang. I don’t like the idea that this is not a true Mustang chamber.”

On Tuesday, Landrith and Ward 2 Councilwoman Kathleen Moon clarified statements made during that meeting, saying their concerns stemmed from questions pertaining to “the legality of the contract, rather than where the chamber membership is located.”

City and chamber officials subsequently discovered the lease between the parties expired in 2004. In order to “move us all along,” Landrith said he e-mailed a proposed contract to Council members, City Manager David Cockrell, chamber members and the media Tuesday. Landrith said one reason he drafted the agreement was in response to remarks made in a newspaper article last week by chamber members.
In that article, Ryan Tate, Robert Crout and Chad Fulton addressed Moon and Landrith’s comments in the June 3 public meeting that the chamber was not just “Mustang’s” chamber.

“I heavily object to comments about isolationism and us versus them. I was elected for the 2 by 6. It is the 2 by 6 for me. I’m sorry, but that’s how it is,” Landrith said. “We don’t have to help them sell papers — if you want to keep going to the paper, that’s not a partnership.”

Landrith’s draft — which included many provisions not contained in the original lease agreement — stipulated:

-The chamber should open its committee meetings to the press and public;
-The chamber guide, published annually, should be changed from including a message from the city manager and photos of the current Council members to include a “more expanded” message from the Council and combined with the city manager’s “welcome” page;
-“All residents of Mustang and business should receive the publication. A one-page overview of the last approved city budget shall also be included on one page. At least five organizations of civic nature should be included, recommend Kiwanis, Masonic Lodge, Rotary Club, Lions Club, historical society. A current city map of at least two pages should be included, in the form previously listing key council members, city staff, etc.;”
-The city and chamber will host a public forum “after 5 p.m.” for businesses and the public, the cost of which would be borne by the city (for Mustang proper businesses) and the chamber (for businesses outside the city limits);
-The chamber shall not provide “preferential treatment toward any business if a request for referral services is requested;”
uThe chamber shall dedicate at least 10 hours per week toward “economic goals of the city;”
-That the director or president shall appear before Council in public meetings to provide updates at least four times per year, and the chamber “executive team” appear before Council at least once a year;
-All city employees, board members and Council shall be given a chamber membership, and the city be provided one voting membership;
-City and Council members will have the ability to send mailings to chamber members;
-City and chamber staff shall work to share resources for public information;
uEach contract renewal shall list the previous two years’ “total funding from the city;”
-The chamber’s executive board membership shall include “at least 50 percent residents of Mustang or at least 75 percent business owners in Mustang city limits;” and
-The chamber shall receive 5 percent per year if it meets contract requirements, and that it be penalized 10 percent per year if it does not.

Ward 3 Councilman Scott Gibson said Landrith’s draft represented “micromanaging of this government,” and Gibson quoted a portion of the Mustang City Charter to back up his position.

“Section 2.2 of the charter says, ‘The mayor shall preside at meetings of the Council. The mayor shall be recognized as head of the city government for all ceremonial purposes and by the governor for purposes of military law,’ so if we have an emergency, you really are in charge,” Gibson said. “It then goes on to say, ‘the mayor shall have no regular administrative duties except that the mayor shall sign written obligations of the city as the Council may require. As a Councilmember, the mayor shall have all powers, rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities of a Councilmember, including the right to vote on questions.’

“Obviously, no legal counsel reviewed this document. If this situation came up, and it was me, I would have asked my staff, the people that I trust, to provide me with a draft agreement,” he said.

Gibson said Landrith’s proposal was “precisely ‘us versus them’ — when you talk about a forum and the city paying for businesses in the city limits being paid for by us and those outside being paid by the chamber.”

Tate said, “We can’t survive just on the city limits of Mustang. We’re Mustang at heart. We love Mustang. We want what’s best for this city.”

Ward 1 Councilman Jay Adams and Ward 4 Councilman Keith Bryan both agreed a new contract is necessary but said they believed Landrith’s proposal was beyond the scope of what was needed.

“I believe this is excessive at a time that it’s not really necessary,” Adams said.
“I agree there needs to be a contract, but your suggestions seem to be very controlling,” Bryan said. “We should be promoting instead of inhibiting the chamber.”

The job of drafting a contract between the city and chamber was then turned over to Cockrell and City Attorney Jonathan Miller. They will work with chamber leadership to hammer out the details “as soon as possible.”

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