Board Cuts Own Salary in Midst of Budget Slashing

Playing to a packed house of more than thirty-five people, consisting mainly of the four defeated candidates plus their supporters whose presence at the meeting was spurred by an email campaign broadcasting the intentions of the newly elected trustees before Monday’s Board meeting (4/26), Trustee Nicky Leigh followed up the motion to eliminate the Community Development Director, Planning Tech and cut to half-time the Deputy Clerk and Police Clerk with a motion to cut Board Members’ salary in half.

The motion to reduce Trustees’ pay to $50/meeting and the Mayor’s pay to $100/meeting was seconded and carried by a vote of 6 to 1. Mayor Dave voted against it.

In spite of a jam-packed Agenda staring them in the face, newly elected Mayor Pro-Tem Aluise and Trustees Taylor and Fleming doggedly ripped into the town’s budget deficit, as promised during their campaign, with a flurry of motions that set heads spinning in various directions.

Including the firing of Town Administrator Betsy Suerth and Town Attorney Gene Duran, and elimination of the Community Development Director and Planning Technician positions and cutting to half time the Police Clerk and Deputy Clerk, in all, a whopping six motions passed that directly addressed the town’s $276,000 budget deficit.

During Board comments Trustee Bryan Fleming started the ball rolling with a motion to require that all department heads be in attendance at every Board meeting henceforth. The motion was seconded and carried.

Trustee Fleming’s second motion to freeze Board of Trustee contributions was the first cut. Fleming explained that the Board oversees an annual fund of $12,000 in taxpayer money which they are allowed to give to worthy causes, and should be frozen until they can get a handle on the budget. The motion was seconded and carried.

Next up Mayor Pro-Tem Aluise brought forth his motion addressing the planning department and clerks’ positions. At that point the crowd grew pretty gnarly. Former Trustee Bobby Hays stood up and objected. Other people shouted comments from the gallery. Mayor Dave called for order and said the public would not be allowed to comment. Then he allowed Pastor Legg to comment. Legg called upon the Board to reconsider what they were about to do. He reminded them what happened in 1997 when the Board fired the Town Administrator (there was a recall of the Mayor and two Trustees).

I asked permission to speak because Mayor Dave let Pastor Legg speak and I’m fed up with everyone else getting to make speeches except me. And what I had to say directly addressed Pastor Legg’s comment. Mayor Dave said I could come forward and the crowd erupted again. Chief Burris warned everyone to settle down or he’d clear the room.

I said that since we were taking so many liberties I had a statement that Tod Tibbetts asked me to say on his behalf since he could not be present.

“The Town of Silt is governed by the Board of Trustees, elected by the voters. An election was held on April 1 (oops – I meant to say April 6). There were winners and there were losers. The SOS – Save Our Silt candidates openly advocated for change in order to balance the budget. The voters overwhelmingly voted to support those candidates. The people voted for change and action and they expect to see that happen. Thank you.”

Several people walked out during and after my comment. I didn’t take it personally.

On the heels of that controversial motion’s passage was Trustee Leigh’s motion to cut Board members’ pay in half, which was not at all controversial and passed quickly.

When it was his turn to comment, Trustee Paul Taylor made a motion to freeze hiring. Police Chief Burris explained that he is in the process of hiring a replacement officer and asked for that position to be exempt from the motion. Trustee Taylor amended his motion to reflect the Chief’s request. The motion was seconded and carried.

In between budget motions some unfinished business was brought to the floor as Town Attorney Gene Duran introduced “Emergency Ordinance No. 4, Series 2010 to repeal Ordinance No. 9, Series 2008, Ordinance No. 13, Series 2008, and amend Ordinance No.1, Series 2010”, which basically says the Town Administrator hires all personnel including the Town Judge. At the February 22 Board meeting, Carl McWilliams had pointed out to the Board that doing so violated the Silt Home Rule Charter (see Citizens of Silt). Because of that dispute, Town Attorney Duran said in his opinion the newly revised Ordinance No. 4 upheld the HRC and should be passed as an emergency ordinance so that the new Judge could be sworn in and Court resumed. Because of the question about the legality of previous Ordinance No. 9, Court in April was cancelled.

After a lengthy discussion which disputed the need for an emergency ordinance, a motion was made by Trustee Taylor to appoint the new Judge on a temporary basis and resume Court for May and bring back the emergency ordinance as a regular ordinance for two readings and public hearings at the May 24 Board meeting. The motion was seconded and carried.

At approximately 11:45 p.m., the dozen or so of us drowsy stragglers remaining in the gallery were jolted awake when Mayor Pro-Tem Aluise presented the final two motions to not renew the employment contracts for Town Administrator Betsy Suerth and Town Attorney Gene Duran. In the interim Davis Farrar will serve as Town Administrator and the town will contract with Attorney Walt Brown for legal services. Due to the lateness of the hour and the undauntedness of the newly elected Trustees much of the sound and fury had subsided or left the building. After the motions passed, the meeting abruptly adjourned.

The meeting will be replayed on Cable Access Channel 10. DVD copies are available from the Town Hall by request and a $5.00 fee.

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