Task force draws fire
Washington City Council member Bob Shepherd said he felt as if he had his “legs cut out from under him” when he learned that the city planned to create a task force to discuss the transition of the city attorney.
While discussing the creation of the task force, Shepherd said that he had learned about the plan from an outside source. He said that he was upset with the formation and felt the authority of the council had been circumvented. The council voted to table discussion on the issue.
“The city attorney is appointed by the city council and works at the direction of the city council,” Shepherd said.
He said that the task force should have more council members on it. He also said that the task force should not have been formed until current city attorney Craig Arbuckle had announced he planned to retire.
Mayor Sandra Johnson said that the resolution didn’t have an end date and it was just a beginning discussion. She said that the discussion of the transition of several key city personnel had been done during the budgeting process. Shepherd said he remembered discussing the transition of personnel under the authority of the city administrator, but not the city council.
City council member Bob Shellmyer also said that he was concerned about the task force forming without informing the council.
“I think it is bad management and I think we need to take another look at that,” he said.
When council member Fred Stark gave Arbuckle an opportunity to speak in front of the council, Arbuckle declined to make a statement. Arbuckle was reappointed as the city’s attorney last year for a two-year term.
Council member Merle Hagie said that it is a concern that many of the top officials are the only ones who know how to do their jobs. He said that it is a concern if they decide to retire that there will be no one qualified to take over.
Shepherd said that as an elected official, his job is to represent the people. He said that this is why it is so important for the council to be involved.
According to the council’s packet, the purpose of the task force was “to develop guidelines for the transitioning of this position to a new attorney in the near future.” The task force would be made up of mayoral appointments of Mayor Johnson, Hagie, city administrator Brent Hinson, police chief Greg Goodman, city clerk Illa Earnest, building and zoning administrator Steve Donnolly and Arbuckle.
“This gives me the idea of heavy-handedness,” Shepherd said. “I hope I am wrong. I hope I am being oversensitive.”
In other business, the council:
• discussed the purchase of a residence at 1307 North Second Avenue in closed session. An offer of $4,000 to the city had been made;
• discussed a lease amendment with Washington County Public Health for space the department rents from the city. The amendment will raise monthly rates from $435 to $1,000;
• approved an engineering services agreement with V&K for a drainage study on West Tyler Street;
• approved an engineering services agreement with V&K for water main reconstruction on South Avenue B;
• approved the final reading of an ordinance to add two handicapped parking spaces on North Iowa Avenue between Second and Main streets;
• approved the first reading of an ordinance for division of Tax Increment Finance revenue for Highland Park East; and
• approved a resolution establishing funds for water sinking, sewer sinking and municipal building project in the city’s budget.