A special meeting of the Edgewood town council this week was called “for nothing,” according to Councilor Sherry Abraham. The meeting was set at the last regular council meeting of Aug. 11.
Because a request made by Councilor Audrey Jaramillo at that time was not also submitted in writing, the agenda item about the town’s status with respect to Covid was for discussion only, and couldn’t be acted on, according to Mayor Pro Tem John Abrams.
Abrams is acting mayor, following various lawsuits that removed John Bassett from office. Abrams implemented Covid safety measures to be reimplemented in Edgewood, as infection numbers throughout the state continue to rise and following positive Covid tests among staff.
“I’m curious what your motion will be on this,” said Jaramillo to Abrams at the start of the meeting.
“Councilor, there is very little that we can make motions on here,” Abrams said. “This is more of a discussion and consideration. I don’t see any action. I don’t see anything to act upon at this point.”
Jaramillo disagreed. “I did request this to be action, so you are in violation of the judge’s writ and order,” she said.
“Councilor,” Abrams said, “I think that if you were going to submit something to act upon then you would have submitted it prior to the publication of our meeting agenda. … I didn’t feel that there was anything to act upon.”
“So we called a special meeting for nothing,” Abraham said.
Amid discussion, Abrams said that he took action not just for the safety of town employees, but also for the administrative leave that would accompany it. As it stands, said Abrams, employees needing to take time off due to Covid or quarantine are using their sick and annual leave.
“That in itself is a very large burden on employees,” he said.
At issue is an email from Abrams to town employees, requesting that they provide vaccination proof or get a weekly Covid test, and closing most town facilities to the public except by appointment. Jaramillo argues that this action can only be taken by the governing body.
Abraham said that the same resolution that was passed by the town in 2020 couldn’t be reinstated because the wording on the document mentioned school closures, and other things not relevant at this time.
“It would be a new resolution,” said Abrams. “And I would like your input from today’s meeting in order to make that draft and to present it to you at our next council meeting.”
Councilor Linda Holle voiced her frustration at the meeting’s lack of action, after Jaramillo suggested postponing the meeting until action could be taken by the council.
“I’m a little bit unhappy with all this talk,” she said. “I think we all cleared our calendar so we could meet today at 3 o’clock. I see there’s nothing for action on this agenda, but we can certainly have our discussions. We’re already all in the meeting.”
Discussion continued on just what precautions the Edgewood would be requiring of its employees.
Regarding vaccinations, Abraham cited the town’s personnel policy, which prohibits any discriminatory actions against employees. Her concern was that the town “treat vaccinated and unvaccinated employees equally.” She said she agreed that all town employees should wear masks.
She also disavowed herself from “any action associated with [Abrams’] directive to force invasive procedures on our employees,” referring to the weekly testing request.
Her sentiment was echoed by Holle, who said that she also believes “in personal responsibility and individual freedom” to either get vaccinated or not, but doesn’t want to mandate proof of vaccination nor proof of a negative Covid test every week.
When Jaramillo asked Abrams what enforcements he would be implementing for safety protocol violations between the special meeting and the next regular council meeting, he said that there were “not going to be any immediate actions one way or the other.”
Regarding the closure of town hall to the public in favor of scheduled appointments, Holle said that she’d previously been in favor of a “hybrid model” for council meetings. In this model, councilors and the public could attend meetings masked and in person as well as virtually.
But after considering several comments from the public about their inability to hear councilors who were in person and masked at the meeting, she said she’d changed her mind.
By going fully virtual again, Holle said, “at least we could be home and not have to wear a mask, and it might help the communication … for everyone to be able to hear.”
Abraham recommended that town hall remain open, and suggested that, for the council meetings, plastic partitions could be used to help keep councilors separated from one another.
Abrams asked the council to consider “allowing the town to procure the rapid [Covid] tests and allowing them to be provided for all town employees.”
To this, Jaramillo said, “You’re assuming that this [safety] policy is passing.”
“I’m assuming that I’m the chief executive officer and I have to take emergency action,” responded Abrams.
A few members of the public also spoke up, both in favor and against the precautions.