November 23, 2013 by wcobserver
-By WCObserver staff-
Time is set aside at each West Fork city council meeting for members of the public to address the council. The Observer has for the last several months, published portions of these public comments, transcribed verbatim from the audio recording provided by the city clerk.
Earlier in the meeting the council had voted to pull $43,372 from reserve funds in order to pay overtime compensation that was due to several city and water employees. The previous month $12,000 overtime pay was paid to an employee who resigned. The movement of funds resulted from mismanagement of workers’ overtime. Both federal labor laws and city policy were ignored by the person responsible, Michael “Butch” Bartholomew who occupies a unique position in the city organization. He is paid and and accountable to the autonomous Water/Sewer Commission but has several city duties.
Planning commission chair Mike Landa who spoke in support of Mr. Bartholomew pointed to their professional relationship. Whatever the communication has been between Bartholomew and Landa was done outside of public view. A Freedom of Information request, October 11, 2013, for email records between Landa and several public officials and employees yielded this statement from City Treasurer/Water Dept. office manager Kristie Drymon, “Mr. Bartholomew has had no written communication with Mr. Landa in the last 18 months.”
Earlier in the meeting Mr. Rossetti laid out the “guidelines” for the public forum.
“We have three public forums listed tonight so I would like the council to support these recommendations on how to handle the forum tonight. We do have some issues that are different than we normally have so. For public comments in the forum I ask that any of you that have a comment – you’re allowed two minutes, you’re asked to come to the podium to speak. You’ll make all comments to the council, not to the audience. Please, no interruptions from the audience anytime anybody is speaking. The council will take no action on any of tonight’s public comments. And, I ask that the council not respond to the public comments. Are you guys good with those ground rules? That being said… “
The first citizen came to the podium and addressed the council.
“I’m West Fork resident Mr. Winkler; I’ve spoken to this body before.
Two months ago I spoke regarding Mr. Bartholomew’s job performance. Maybe to review what people don’t understand often times because it’s a little bit unusual. Mr. Bartholomew is responsible, accountable to and paid by the autonomous water commission. The work he does in the city as street department, inspections, animal control and whatever it is…he does that as a volunteer.
You people are tasked with the fiduciary responsibility of this corporation, you’re the board of directors, this is a corporation. It’s your job to protect the citizens’ money and to see that this thing is managed in a responsibility way. So what you’ve got here is a volunteer, he’s been here a long time, granted. He’s not quite kept up with the digital age, we all know that. You’ve got a volunteer who according to tonight he’s lost almost $50,000. So I think you might want to think in your mix of what to do here. Mr. Sergerant wants to advance him based on a 1984 resolution that says he’s the business manager in the absence of the mayor. That’s what that resolution says. So, he wants to advance him’ but while you’re thinking of that consider the other alternative which is to fire Mr. Bartholomew from the city. He can still get his salary from the water. But when you have a volunteer that’s losing $50,000 a year you might want to think about putting together a retirement package for him. He’s served well but you might be saving money if he’s not in here. Put that in the mix. One is to give a raise and elevate him the other is to fire him. Thanks.”
Mr. Paul Libor requests a new sound system. “It’s being worked on”, Julie Shafer
Rossetti: “Mike, you got something?
Landa: “Yes, sir.”
Rossetti: “ Alright you can come up.”
Mike Landa approached the podium and addressed the council.
“Since I’ve chair of the planning commission for a couple of years now. All my experiences with Mr. Bartholomew have been very professional. If I’ve ever had a question, something that’s going on in the city, something legal, he’s found the answer for me and he’s been very beneficial to the planning commission. I think it would be really hard to find somebody, eventually you’re going to find somebody to replace him but it’s going to be hard to fill those shoes with the knowledge that man has regarding the operation of the city.” [Scattered applause]
Interim Mayor Rossetti: “Anyone else?”
Speaking from the audience a man says “One other thing.” [Identified in the minutes as Carl Underhill]
Rossetti: “one more.”
Mr. Underhill [pointing to Mr. Winkler] We need to quite’n him down one way or another. Is there any solution to this? Is there?
Rossetti; “no, we have to…”
Carl Underhill: “I think one time he was banned from this whole room except when you was having a meeting. I notice him up here and down at the café, got his own office down there, his own WiFi, you guys approved it. Ah man, we need to do something about this guy.”
Rossetti: “I don’t have an answer for you, but…”
“Okay, thank you, That’s something to think about.”
Interim Mayor Rossetti: “It is.”
Voice: “One more thing.” [ Indentified in the minutes as Joe Toher]
Joe Toher: “I’d like to speak in two different dimensions. The first dimension is a just another West Fork citizen. I want to take exception to what Mr. Winkler said. I question…I’ll constrain myself…I had some of the same emotions he had previously …the way…and the other dimension I want to speak in is a water, sewer commission member. The way you [addressing Mr. Winkler] brought to head an issue last year with the water and sewer commission members. We went from volunteers, that helped, volunteer our time for no cost to help the city to unappointed, unaccountable representatives that didn’t answer to anybody. Okay, it was my understanding at the time that we always answered, and Butch Bartholomew always answered to the city council. I think you [addressing Mr. Winkler] have a loose representation…Mr. Winkler has a loose relationship with the truth and I do take exception to it as a private citizen. I don’t think Butch Bartholomew needs to volunteer his time, he’s a professional manager that is adequately skilled in what he does for the city. And I do not think he bilks the city of any time and hes not receiving any compensation he’s not due. Again, I’m responding to this other citizen – I think he’s got a loose relationship with the truth. I think he belongs here as much as any of us do. I just don’t like the way he characterizes issues, especially at public meetings.” [scattered applause]
Interim Mayor Rossetti: “Thank you, anyone else?”