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Committee chair shouts at aldermen, hits mute button

CITY HALL – In one more indication of tension, First Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus spent more than five minutes yelling at two members of her Engrossment, Rules, Resolutions and Credentials Committee.  

Tyus spent much of the segment of a video meeting of the committee on Tuesday telling 23rd Ward Alderman Joseph Vaccaro he couldn’t bring up anything else because she already had made a motion to adjourn. No other action is allowed until members act on such a motion.

The City Charter requires a Board of Aldermen committee to “engross” all bills before they’re passed, to ensure that any amendments are properly inserted.

Some aldermen, including President Lewis Reed, complain that extra steps Tyus has taken to check the wording of bills unnecessarily slows down the process, including with those she doesn’t like. The often-controversial Tyus says that she’s following rules for her committee that   previously were overlooked.

The exchange started near the end of the meeting, right after 16th Ward Alderman Tom Oldenburg moved for approval of a bill that would close five parks in the 19th Ward after 7 p.m. Earlier in the meeting, Tyus had told 19th Ward Alderwoman Marlene Davis that she was holding the bill because Davis had left out needed paperwork. 

The argument took place in the midst of a Zoom meeting, in which live video pictures of everybody in the meeting are all shown. To keep from having everyone speak at once, individuals or others can mute the voices of others.

“We already addressed it. You are not recognized for that,” Tyus told Oldenburg.   

Then Vaccaro said he was challenging Tyus on the point.

“There is a motion to adjourn on the floor. Please mute Alderman Vaccaro,” Tyus yelled. “Mute Alderman Vaccaro, and I am not going to ask you any more.”

Tyus repeatedly told Vaccaro to mute himself.

“You are being like little children, come here just to interrupt,” Tyus said. “I am the chair, and he is not recognized. You can talk until you are crazy in the face.”

Tyus also said that if the meeting wasn’t adjourned, she could recess it until another time without a vote.

When Green seconded the motion, Vaccaro asked for a roll call vote. Tyus said she would recess the meeting and start it again on Wednesday, just before a previously scheduled meeting of her committee. 

With the paperwork attached to Davis’ bill, the committee approved it and sent it to the Board of Aldermen for final passage. After Tuesday’s meeting Tyus said that the reason she had not allowed Vaccaro to speak was that she hadn’t acknowledged him.

“He doesn’t understand the rules,” Tyus said. “He thinks he does. He thinks everything is only about him,” she said. 

Tyus said that Davis’ bill had been held up because an important addendum had been left out. 

“They did not have the second part,” Tyus said. “You cannot incorporate by reference something that’s invisible.”

Speaking about the bill on the 19th Ward parks, Vaccaro said that Tyus had recognized Oldenburg, who moved for its approval. Vaccaro then seconded.

“It’s a non-debatable motion, and a vote should have been taken,” he said.

Then, Vaccaro said, Tyus muted him. Then she unmuted him, because he had the right to challenge the chair. Then she muted him once more and wouldn’t let him come back in again. 

“No other committee chair has been that disrespectful,” Vaccaro said.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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