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City Clerk Should Resign, Council Says

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August 26, 2010 by wcobserver

By Delcie Kincaid

West Fork- The West Fork City Council unanimously passed a vote of “no confidence” for the city clerk, asking for her resignation, at the August 10 city council meeting following a 45-minute executive session.

The motion for the vote was made by Ward 1 Council Member Rodney Drymon and seconded by Ward 4 Council Member Joan Wright. The reason given for this motion was the council’s dissatisfaction with the lengthiness of the minutes submitted by the clerk.

The members swept through the vote while the clerk, Susan Cooney, continued her duties of taking notes and minding the transcription machine. The council, led by Ward 3 Council Member John Foster, then voted unanimously against approving the minutes of the July meeting.

After the decision came, Cooney said she would think about resigning, though in a later interview, she said she won’t step down and is planning to run in November for the same position. Her only opponent at this point is Emily Holloway.

“The reason I ran for this position is so I could write the minutes,” she said. “And I write the minutes as if someone was there.”

Cooney said the minutes are verbatim so there will be a good historical record and residents can revisit an issue that had been discussed for clarity.

“I‘ve had a lot of feedback over the last year and a half about the transparency of the minutes,” she said. “That’s why I have a hard time compromising.”

Mayor Jan Throgmorton said she couldn’t discuss what was talked about in the executive session, but did say the length of minutes has been an ongoing issue.

“We discussed this within six months of her being elected,” she said, adding, “If I was asked to resign, I’d step down.”

Wright said that although she had been serving for only two months, she was aware of the issues.

“I know they had already asked in an executive session to shorten the minutes,” Wright said. “I haven’t had any contact with her on the other complaints, though.”

Wright said Cooney doesn’t need an education, referring to the Municipal League Clerk Education training session Cooney had requested to go to in September but was denied funding by the city to attend.

“All she has to do is take the minutes, sign documents and show up on time,” she said.

Foster said he was aware that problems were occurring but “thought things were going great.”

Foster said he thought there wasn’t enough communication between the clerk and the other elected city officials.

Ward 2 Council Member Justin Harris, who was absent from the meeting, said he wasn’t aware of the vote of no confidence being made. He said no council members had contacted him after the meeting, but he would have abstained from the vote had he attended.

“Unless she’s knowingly causing the city harm, leave her alone,” Harris said. “She’s an elected official, not a city employee.”

Cooney was elected in 2008 and replaced Paula Caudle, who resigned after serving as the sole clerk/treasurer for 35 years.

After Caudle’s retirement, the clerk/treasurer roles were separated into two positions under Mayor Jeff Baker, with Kristie Drymon taking over the treasurer’s duties. Drymon, the wife of Council Member Drymon, was a full time employee with the water department and added the treasurer role to her duties after Baker divided the position of clerk/treasurer. Her regular monthly salary of $1750 is paid partially through the city’s general fund and partially through the water department.

Cooney is paid $200 a month in her role as city clerk. Her duties, according to the job description provided by Kristie Drymon, include keeping the minutes of city council meetings, being the second signature on all city ordinances and legal documents, working with the mayor to develop the agenda for city council meetings, providing materials for meeting packets, reminding department heads to turn in their reports for council meetings, codifying ordinances, notifying news media as required and assuring the council meetings comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

FOIA Violation

Before going into executive session, the council’s actions may have violated required procedures. According to FOIA, “the specific purpose of the executive session shall be announced before going into executive session (25-19-106).”

The reason for the executive session, which was called by Mayor Throgmorton, moved by Foster and seconded by Ward 2 council member Misty Caudle, was not announced prior to the session.

“At this point we would like to ask everyone to exit the room for the next few minutes,” Throgmorton said, without giving reason.

Throgmorton said in an interview Friday that she gave the reason of talking about personnel, although Washington County Observer audiotapes of the meeting do not corroborate that statement.

City Business Manager “Butch” Bartholomew asked Cooney into the executive session 15 minutes later and the public session reconvened 30 minutes later.

Thogmorton said the city council was going to make a motion and have a vote “so that everybody knows what’s going on.”

Drymon made the motion for the vote of no confidence for the city clerk, followed by the rest of the council members.

Two Appointments Fill City Council Seats

Two new council members were sworn in at Tuesday’s meeting, following unanimous votes by the council members, making the group complete with eight members.

The Ward 1 position, from which John Richard resigned in July, had three potential appointees, Brian “Moe” Greenhoe, Edwin Stout and Frances Hime.  Drymon led the unanimous vote for Stout, who has been a resident of West Fork for 3 years. Hime, who was not present, had withdrawn earlier from consideration for the council position and has already announced her intention to run against Throgmorton in the November election.

The Ward 4 position, which was vacated by Julie Shafer in June when she moved to Ward 3, had two candidates, Charlie Rossitti and Caroline Smith. The council voted for Rossetti, who has been a resident of West Fork for 20 years years.

Both Rossetti and Stout were sworn in by Mayor Throgmorton after the vote.

Throgmorton said she has known Rosetti and Stout for a long time and is pleased with the council’s choices. She said Stout also serves with her as a volunteer on the fire department.

Wright said she voted for Rosetti because she has known him and his family for a long time.

“I had both of his children in my classes,” Wright, a former schoolteacher, said.

Wright said she cast her vote for Stout because his qualifications were good and there is no chance of him moving. She added she has known Stout’s wife, Shyrlie, for a couple of years.

Foster said they seemed like the best fit. Drymon had no comment when contacted and Caudle and Ward 3 council member Anita Lowry did not return phone calls.

The city council has been dotted with vacancies in the past year, with Jami Coker’s resignation from Ward 4 in March, Shafer from Ward 4 in June and Richard from Ward 1 in July.

The law requires the vacancies to be advertised as soon as they are open, and filled with the council’s approval of the nominee. Throgmorton addressed the matter by announcing the open positions on the city’s marquee sign.

The second position seats in each ward are up for election in November. The candidates who have filed so far are: Lowry, who is running unopposed in Ward 1; Greenhoe and Stout, who are vying for the Ward 2 position; Shafer, Cleta Terhune and Paul Libor, who are running in Ward 3; and Rosetti and Smith who are running in Ward 4. The last date to file is August 24. Elections for the first positions in each ward will be held in 2012.

In Other Council
Business

During the public forum at the city council meeting, Paula Caudle asked the council to take a look at the sign ordinance.

“I’ve been wondering how long temporary is,” she said, adding she looked “temporary” up in the dictionary and “it’s not very long.”

Paula Caudle said if there isn’t something in the sign ordinance that pertains to that, she hopes the council will at least discuss the temporary signs that have become very permanent.

The sign ordinance currently in place, which was approved in 1998, defines portable temporary attraction signs as a single or double surface, usually mounted on wheels, easily movable and not permanently attached. The ordinance does not mention criteria or an enforcement code for portable temporary signs.

In other business, the council approved library board reappointments of Deborah Harnish and Marlene Jensen, who were each reappointed for five-year terms. Throgmorton announced plans for a Health and Wellness Center were in the beginning stages; Police Chief Mike Nelson said the agreement with Greenland involving police officers is moving along; and Fire Chief Mitch McCorkle suggested city and rural residents identify their street addresses by putting up four inch reflective house numbers that are easily visible from the street.

“It’s really important for when we’re trying to find somebody, especially at night,” McCorkle said.

Mayor Throgmorton also announced that Julie Schafer and Ann Simpson were appointed to fill vacancies on the Community Center Committee.

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