Sunday, December 10, 2023

A walk in her flip-flops

Springtown Council debates elected officials’ dress code, conference participation


SPRINGTOWN — Springtown City Council recently had a lively discussion on flip-flop sandals and what kind of image that shoe projects for the person wearing them.

During the Sept. 27 meeting, the council was tasked with deciding on amendments, which City Administrator David Miller said were brought up by various council members, to the city’s Elected and Appointed Officials Procedures and Protocol Policy. Of the four amendments proposed, the one regarding council members’ dress code at certain events sparked a debate about whether flip-flops could be considered professional if worn by council members.

“I’d rather see a flip-flop than a 7-inch stiletto heel as business casual,” council member Michele Chandler Kelley said during the meeting.

Specifically, the changes address council members’ attire at outdoor events they attend while representing the city, including but not limited to city-sponsored events. The amendment included a ban on flip-flops, though Miller noted it might be helpful for flip-flops to be better defined in the policy as some sandals are classier than others.

The dress code debate fell along gendered lines. Council members Chandler Kelley and Richelle Pruitt argued to take the ban on flip-flops out of the policy, describing it as nitpicky. Pruitt, who claimed to own a variety of flip-flops, said the footwear is comfortable for her and a welcome change from the closed-toe shoes she wears for work.

“I’m a grown woman who has a wardrobe,” Pruitt said during the meeting. “I have shoes that are comfortable, and I have shoes that are extremely uncomfortable, and I have chosen as a grown woman not to wear those extremely uncomfortable shoes anymore because I don’t have to. I don’t have to wear those high heels anymore. I don’t have to wear any of that if I don’t want to.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Pro Tem Walter Roberson and council member Scott Richardson said flip-flops shouldn’t be allowed and considered the footwear to be unprofessional.

“I have nothing against flip-flops, but I think in a professional setting, I think image becomes very important, how we are perceived, and if it’s somebody’s perception to them, that perception is real,” Roberson said.

Pruitt claimed it was easier for the men on the council to be against flip-flops since footwear like sandals and shoes with high heels are more commonly worn by women.

“Men don’t wear heels ever, so they have no idea,” she said. “If you get something that’s comfortable that will go with your outfit, and it looks nice and decent or whatever and you can do it, then you’re going to do it. At some point, we quit wearing that stuff because it’s uncomfortable.”

After a motion failed to approve the amendments as presented, Miller said the dress code amendment would be taken off the table to be rewritten.

Pruitt also took issue with another amendment that would require a certain level of participation at training conferences that council members attend. Miller proposed council members go to at least half the training sessions available at conferences they attend to be accountable to the public and show they are not simply taking taxpayer-funded vacations.

Pruitt said not all the sessions at conferences are helpful to council members considering that state law requires the council to make certain decisions anyways. In contrast, she said she gets more out of networking at the conferences than attending lectures.

“I’m pretty sure I do my job every day that I was elected to do, and I’m accountable to the people every single day, and unless there’s a class that can explain to me how to answer some of the questions I get asked every day, then I should be networking and learning from other people,” Pruitt said. “I don’t need a class that’s going to have some yawner up there trying to tell me how to do what we do every day.”

Pruitt and Chandler Kelley voted to oppose the amendment about conference participation. For her part, Chandler Kelley explained she wanted to avoid a slew of complaints being filed simply because one council member did not see another in a training session. Violations of the Elected and Appointed Officials Procedures and Protocol Policy are policed among council members. They can file complaints against each other that will be investigated by the city attorney’s office, and then they can choose to act from there.

“We are all grown,” Chandler Kelley said. “For accountability for our citizens, I agree with it, but I don’t want it to be an issue to say, ‘Well, we didn’t see you in the afternoon session, so we’re going to file a complaint,’ and cause thousands of thousands of dollars to rack up that the citizens have to pay for because somebody got their feathers hurt because they didn’t see somebody.”

Pruitt and Chandler Kelley’s votes caused there to be a tie with Roberson and Richardson who voted to approve the amendment. Mayor Greg Hood stepped in to break the tie by moving to pass the conference participation amendment as written.