Former Marshal and service canine back on duty
by Rick Langenberg:
When a new group of elected leaders vowed to make major changes in Green Mountain Falls, they weren’t bluffing.
In a 360-degree swing of the political pendulum, local elected leaders –Mayor Lorrie Worthey and new trustees Chris Quinn, Dave Cook and Michael Butts and incumbent Tyler Stevens –within minutes of getting sworn into office enacted seven resolutions regarding new policies and procedures that will have major impacts on how the GMF government operates.
And within several days of taking office, former Marshal Tim Bradley, who was forced to resign by a former board, was sworn into office again as part of a plan to reform the police department. Details are still getting finalized, such as where Bradley will set up his marshal headquarters. Not only did Bradley get the nod to come back, but a service canine he previously wanted to use for assistance on certain types of cases and for public relations purposes, will become part of the agency.
The reappointment of Bradley marked one of the more significant new policy changes enacted by the board last week. Other sweeping new plans include: *stripping City Clerk Chris Frandina of her duties as treasurer and having Butts handle the city’s financial books; *rescinding a previous law authorizing a new town manager position; *reasserting much more authority to the trustees and especially the mayor, who will now serve as the official GMF town spokesperson and will set meeting agendas and have the power to remove disruptive people from these gatherings; *reaffirming the trustee liaison system and getting rid of certain previous committee assignments or advisory positions; requesting a complete budget update immediately from current department heads and setting specific responsibilities for all trustees and the mayor.
And in an unrelated matter, the board, following one of several executive sessions last week, opted to approve a new code of ethics initiative proposed by the Concerned Citizens of Green Mountain Falls group. This bars a board member from doing work for the town, once he/she leaves office for a certain period, and sets other restrictions to avoid conflict of interest situations.
By adopting this proposition, and enacting other new policy changes, the board was able to cancel the town’s forthcoming May 20 special election.
“We really are trying to bring our town and board of trustees back to where we were two years ago,” said Worthey, following last week’s meeting, regarding the new policies. “These are not off the wall things.” Moreover, she says the April 1 vote, and the campaign orchestrated by her and the new elected trustees, clearly emphasized a desire for change. “The citizens want our government to have more accountability and transparency. They wanted action.”
Reaction to the new measures has been quite mixed, with supporters of the new board signaling the definite thumbs-up. “This makes a strong statement,” said former Mayor Dick Bratton. “You are willing to bring sanity to how the government operates. It is wonderful you put a stop to what happened in the last two years.”
But critics of the new board are outraged and contend the elected leaders are declaring war against loyal GMF employees and just want to exert more power.
“That is a slap in the face,” blasted former Mayor Pro Tem and veteran Trustee Jane Newberry, who is accusing the new board of creating a hostile work environment and being anything but transparent. “As I have said before, this (actions of the new leadership group) is ‘Operation Clean Sweep’. They want to get rid of all employees.”
Moreover, Newberry questioned the way the newly-enacted resolutions were handled. “They seemed to be pre-rehearsed. Why weren’t these brought before the public first and the attorney?” said the former mayor pro tem.
Already, the new leadership guard is having an impact, with a complete walkout by the public works and parks departments. Green Mountain Falls currently doesn’t have a street maintenance crew, a situation that could cause major challenges for visitors and residents during snow and inclement weather events, such as last Wednesday’s storm (see related story).
During last week’s meeting, the slew of resolutions got a somewhat skeptical response by attorney Matt Krob, who advised the trustees that some of the proposals clashed with current rules and ordinances.
In a compromise move, the board agreed to have the attorney review the proposals and make needed changes.
One of the more controversial measures is a plan to only have Frandina serve as the town clerk and to designate Butts as the town’s finance officer. “We just want to have more eyes on the budget,” said Worthey, in explaining the reasoning behind this move. “We want a little more accountability.”
Bratton agrees, saying this is standard procedure in the running of an corporation to have a board member designated as the treasurer.
But according to Newberry, this is a dramatic change, with this position being designated as clerk/treasurer for decades. “Chris (Frandina) is bonded for this position,” she cautioned. Plus, Newberry and other critics worry that such a change is putting undue responsibility on a trustee and volunteer citizen. “That is a poor management decision. Putting a volunteer in the position of micro-managing a department like that. it is not a good decision. I don’t know anything about Mr. Butts, but that is a lot of responsibility to place on a volunteer,” related Newberry.
During last week’s meeting, the amount of new resolutions took many meeting participants by surprise, even supporters of the new leadership guard.
The party that didn’t happen
The new resolutions followed an extremely unusual changing of the guard ceremony. A scheduled farewell party for the old board never really occurred, with most departing leaders leaving the building prior to any speeches or breaking out of the cakes, in remembering their accomplishments and welcoming a group of new leaders.
Newberry immediately left prior to the swearing-in of the new board, along with Trustees Mac Pitrone and Ralph LoCascio
“I wasn’t mad or anything, I just felt it was my cue to leave,” said Newberry. “There wasn’t any place to go. It was very awkward.” The former mayor pro tem said she would have preferred to have made final farewell comments, while she was sitting at the leadership table.
The mayor, though, said the timing of the ceremony, with the new board sworn into office prior to the scheduled farewell celebration, was done to get the two sides together. “I sincerely appreciate our old board,” said Worthey.
However, hard feelings still persist. Definite tensions existed throughout the final proceedings involving Worthey and the former board
Following the passing of a new resolution that moved the new $800,000 town hall project forward with the awarding of the final contracts and the unveiling of the construction schedule, Worthey was reluctant to sign the documents. This delay outraged Interim Town Manager Rob McArthur, who demanded that the mayor sign the papers immediately or the board designate another person to perform the task. McArthur, who immediately left the building following this dispute, resigned his post the next day. Resignations also were posted by former trustees Howard Price and LoCascio, leaving two seats open.