Rochester City Council member expelled from meeting

Published 5:42 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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By Catharine Richert

Rochester City Council Member Molly Dennis was asked to leave a city council meeting Monday night after repeatedly veering from the council’s meeting agenda.

Dennis is allowed to attend subsequent meetings, according to City Attorney Michael Spindler-Krage.

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The expulsion is another episode in a long conflict between Dennis, the Council and city staff that resulted in the Council censuring her in 2023.

Dennis was asked to leave during a planned discussion about how the city collects unpaid parking tickets.

Dennis suggested that it’s illegal to dismiss parking tickets, which city staff interjected to say is false. Under narrow circumstances, tickets can be dismissed. 

Discussion became heated, with Dennis interrupting City Council President Brooke Carlson and Spindler-Krage. Dennis was asked to stay on the agenda item: how to handle old, unpaid tickets.

“My question is, ‘How does the city track the dismissal of tickets when the staff or an elected official, or somebody for whatever reason dismisses a ticket?’” said Dennis.

Carlson called several points of order, but Dennis continued.

“Enough. I said ‘point of order’ several times,” said Carlson. “You’re not following our rules. Please do. This is it, Council Member Dennis.”

City staff said that Dennis’ questions weren’t relevant to the conversation, and Carlson told her to leave.

“I will leave,” Dennis said. “But I feel targeted.”

Ongoing tension

Strife between Dennis, the Council and city staff has been going on for nearly four years.

In 2023, the Council issued an unprecedented censure against Dennis for what they described as intimidating physical behaviors and unfounded allegations against council members and staff. For the remainder of 2023, Dennis was barred from in-person meetings with city staff, among other things.

Those restrictions have now expired. But Dennis is suing the city for discrimination, arguing her behaviors are related to the symptoms of attention deficit disorder.

A federal judge is currently weighing the city’s request to dismiss the suit.

“As an oversight body, the City Council needs to help prevent possible cronyism,” Dennis said.

“I believe my question last night, asking for transparency, was not only reasonable and germane, but essential for public trust. Residents have the right to know why certain tickets are dismissed and by who. Transparency is trust. Keeping a record of tickets, paid or dismissed, is basic government accountability.”