FERGUSON, Mo. (KMOX) – By unanimous vote, the Ferguson City Council on Tuesday night voted in favor of a bill that authorizes an agreement between the city and the Department of Justice.
However, it comes with a few caveats.
After an hour of discussion during a third public hearing on the matter at the Ferguson Community Center, council member Wesley Bell introduced several amendments to the original consent decree just prior to the vote.
That sent up howls of protest from many in the packed house, but didn’t seem to worry Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III.
“I think the things that we’ve asked for are very reasonable,” he explained to reporters after the meeting. “Substantively, the spirit of the decree is still very much intact. We’re not trying to take away any safeguards; we’re not trying to take away anything substantive about the decree.”
Still, many in the crowd warned the mayor and council members that their actions would be remembered at the polls during the next election.
There are seven conditions on acceptance in the amended agreement approved by the council:
* The agreement contain no mandate for the payment of additional salary to police department or other city employees
* The agreement contain no mandate for staffing in the Ferguson jail
* Deadlines set forth in the agreement are extended
*The terms of the agreement shall not apply to other governmental entities or agencies who, in the future, take over services or operations currently being provided by the City of Ferguson
* A provision for local preference in contracting with consultants, contractors and third parties providing services under the agreement shall be included
* Project goals for minority and women participation in consulting, oversight and third-party services shall be included
* The monitoring fee caps in the Side Agreement are changed to $1 million over the first five years, with no more than $250,000 in any single year
City officials say the Department of Justice must accept the seven amendments in order for the settlement agreement to be valid.
If that happens, it is expected that the amended settlement agreement will be filed with the federal court in St. Louis for approval by the federal judge.
The vote came after a night of spirited debate from nearly three dozen public speakers on both sides of the issue, for and against signing the consent decree with the Justice Department.
“The people that pay for this settlement will be the people of Ferguson, two-thirds of whom are black,” said Lake Ashby, arguing against the deal. “And maybe the answer is that we all should pay $400 a year or more in taxes to pay for the settlement, but if this happens, thousands of Ferguson residents, mostly African-Americans, will be hurt the most.”
Arguing just as passionately in favor of the agreement was Aleshia Jordan.
“Protecting the citizens of Ferguson should be our priority,” she said to cheers from the crowd. “No amount of money in the world should cause us to sacrifice that. And if that means dissolving Ferguson, then so be it.”
“During the past seven months, we have worked very hard to ensure that our negotiations were feasible and realistic for the citizens of Ferguson,” said Knowles. “Although we did not get everything we wanted in the agreement, we certainly made sure that what was agreed upon, can be implemented in a timely and sufficient manner.”
Also on Tuesday night, Ferguson City Council members appointed Laverne Michom as a replacement for Brian Fletcher, who recently passed away.
The unanimous decision allows Michom to fill Fletcher’s remaining term that will end in April 2018.
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