Jeck’s absence stifles city action

Jeck's absence stifles city action
The Vermillion City Council held two special meetings Wednesday in an attempt to reconsider action it took July 3 regarding the renewal of the on-off sale malt beverage license for Munchies, a new restaurant in downtown Vermillion.

There was just one problem. Alderman Roger Jeck, who the night before was contacted and said he would be present at the meeting, was a no show.

His absence brought action to a screeching halt at the Wednesday noon special meeting.

A state statute allows city councils to reconsider or rescind action taken at a previous meeting during a special meeting, like the one called Wednesday.

But as City Attorney Jim McCulloch pointed out, one of the provisions of the statute states that the same number of people have to be present at the special city meeting as were present at the regular meeting, in this case, the July 3 meeting, during which the council voted 5-4 to not renew Munchies beer license.

No aldermen were absent at that July 3 meeting, meaning no action could be taken at Wednesday's special meeting without Jeck.

City Finance Officer Mike Carlson tried calling him, and got his answering machine. City staff visited his home, and no one was present.

Later in the day, after the special meeting was continued to 4 p.m. in hopes that he would arrive, local police officers reportedly tried to locate him in the city, but were unable to find him.

Jeck's absence pushes the city council's attempt to rescind its July 3 action to its next regular meeting on July 17. It was initially feared that this could spell the end of the hopes of Ben Parsons and Cory Beach, partners who opened the new restaurant, to sell microbrews and other brands of beer in their restaurant.

Further research by McCulloch Wednesday afternoon, however, eased the pressure somewhat.

"Once the license is issued, it's really the (state) Department of Revenue's license for all practical purposes," McCulloch said. There is a 10 day grace period on the license that will expire on midnight July 16.

"From midnight on Sunday, to the time they (the city council) takes any action to rescind its previous action on Monday, July 17, they can't sell beer," McCulloch said. "After that, they can until the renewal issue is then heard again sometime in August."

The city council wants all aldermen present when it acts on renewing Munchies license. It appears that two aldermen will be gone on vacation at the time of the upcoming July 17 meeting, so it appears license renewal won't be an agenda topic until sometime next month.

Alderman Mary Edelen, who voted against renewal of the license at the July 3 meeting, led the drive for Wednesday's special meeting. Aldermen Jack Powell and Ray Hofman also signed a letter requesting the special meeting.

"For several days after the July 3 meeting, I was thinking about the discussion and ultimately my no vote," Edelen, a former state legislator said. "I've been in politics long enough to know that when your gut tells you something is wrong, you perk up and you listen."

She decided to revisit the issue by visiting Munchies. Edelen dined there, talked with co-operator Parsons, and listened to the level of the restaurant's stereo and television noise.

"It's not anything out of the ordinary," she said of the volume levels. "So then I really started to question my no vote, and I told myself I should have done all of this investigation before my vote. I didn't, and I apologize to everyone."

Jody Harnois, who has been active in the Vermillion Jaycees for several years, urged the council to show support to Parsons and Beach. "I feel like people like them, and businesses downtown really deserve some support and the opportunity to do the best they can," he said.

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