Council votes to ask three P&Z appointees to resign or be fired

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Citing an unwillingness on the part of at least three, possibly four, members of the Planning & Zoning Commission to work with city staff, Manager Manuel De La Rosa on Monday recommended the Council remove their appointees.

“I need a group willing to work with me, with city staff,” De La Rosa said.

He said to spare the appointees  some embarassment, he would not name them unless the Council was willing to take action on the request.

The City’s Unified Development Code provides for appointees to boards and commissions to be removed by the Council without cause. The appointees are volunteers and serve at the will of elected officials.

“Not to embarass anyone, but we’ve all had numerous conversations about these individuals,” De La Rosa said.

His recommendation was met with opposition from Council member Byron Tippie. He and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Crane cast  no votes while Council member Charles Canady agreed with Councilman Jack Harkrider’s motion to offer the appointees a choice — resign or be replaced. Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy broke the tie by voting yes.

“I’m not agreeing with this at all. I’m sorry that some (appointees) don’t get along with you,” he said addressing De La Rosa and the Mayor.

Tippie reminded the Mayor that it was she who advised Tippie some time ago that he should not take criticism personally.

“I’ve been tore down as much as anyone else, but I’ve learned to move on and bite my lip,” he said.

The Mayor said this situation was different in that the appointees in question had brought personal agendas to the Commission and were acting in their own self-interests.

“This has nothing to do with personalities,” she said.

“What bothers me about this is my feeling that the public needs to be aware of what is going on,” said Harkrider. “All we’ve heard so far is that these are individuals that the manager can’t work with.”

He said he was more concerned about allegations of ethics code violations.

“It may look like the conflict is between the P&Z and the city manager, but it is not,” said the Mayor. “We need to move toward cooperation and those not willing should be removed.”

De La Rosa said the panel failed to submit items for the February standing meeting, so the meeting was cancelled.

“There was business to conduct,” he said. “These Board members are like employees. If you have to keep pushing them to get things done, then it’s time to move to move on.”

De La Rosa said the panel was directed by the Council to submit proposed revisions to the City’s sign ordinance by Jan. 15, but it did not.

“We have had one lost opportunity after another as a result (of the group’s unwillingness to cooperate),” she said. “I support removing the three and possibly one more.”

“There have been lots of  negative comments from this body, unacceptable behavior, conflicts of interests have been reported and they should not have voted,” De La Rosa said. “It’s no secret about what’s been going on. I’m as disappointed as you are, but we want to move forward.”

Harkrider added that when the matter has been raised during previous Council meetings, it appeared as though the Council might be attempting to restrict the appointees’ free speech.

“When we do things, we need to do our best to keep personalities out of it,” he said. “But, I’m impatient and it has concerned me that P&Z should be doing things with city and other government entities that have been on hold for this (conflict).”

De La Rosa said the dialogue at Planning & Zoning meetings is not friendly.

“It’s always oppositional,” he said.

Crane asked De La Rosa if he had attempted to resolve the problem directly with the appointees before recommending their removal.

“Yes, and I tried to get your help,” he responded.

Crane said he had consulted with one appointee with whom he volunteered to visit.

“You don’t always have to meet with the same individuals to find out it isn’t working,” De La Rosa said.

The Mayor said some members of the Commission are doing a commendable job and are interested in moving forward.

Harkrider used Parks Board Chairman Clay Cole as an example of an effective appointee.

“I respect and admire Clay because he brings ideas,” Harkrider said. “I would hope that all of our committee appointees could be the same way, pro-active.”

“This is business, and at the end of the day, it’s not personal,” De La Rosa added.

Harkrider’s motion as approved gives the appointees in question until the next Council meeting to resign voluntarily. If the resignations are not received, the Council will vote to remove them.

 

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