SAGUACHE — During a lengthy interview Tuesday, Saguache Mayor Greg Terrell broke his silence regarding the resignation of four Saguache trustees last month that has played out on Facebook and other social media sites.
Terrell agreed to the meeting after the town cancelled its regularly scheduled board meeting Tuesday for lack of a quorum. Acting on advice of the town attorney and the town’s insurance carrier, Terrell said he has appointed one of the remaining board members he feels is most neutral to gather a list of possible candidates for a fourth member who could be appointed to the board.
When that member is appointed, the board will have a quorum and can decide if the other three members should be appointed or a special election called to fill their positions.
Terrell has posted two letters to the Town of Saguache site on the resignations, but has not spoken officially to the press since the trustees announced their intentions to leave. He explained that personal reasons and the need to allow a cool-down period motivated his silence.
Town Administrator Pam Fye joined Terrell for the interview and both expressed their incredulity that the resignations have sparked such animosity in the town.
“I’m totally puzzled — I don’t get it,” Terrell began, shaking his head. He and Fye then explained that a series of confidential matters unable to be addressed publicly is what sparked the resignations, but classified them as of minor importance.
The trouble began in April with one matter and quickly spilled over into another matter that resulted in the resignation of Deputy Town Clerk Linda Ahrens. The circumstances of Ahrens’s resignation and the subsequent investigation into a complaint made after she resigned are confidential. But Fye and Terrell insisted board members were invited to take part in the investigation and chose not to do so.
Ahrens was invited five different times to return to her job, Fye said, but declined the offers. Trustee Wyoma Hansen accused Terrell of forcing Ahrens to resign, a charge Terrell denies in his Aug. 7 letter to citizens.
One of the trustees who resigned last month said she could not confirm or deny whether Ahrens was seeking legal recourse against the town or not. Trustee May Engquist was especially upset over Ahrens’s leaving and expressed this in her resignation letter.
Fye and Terrell reported that many of Ahrens’s communications with the trustees following her resignation helped stir up the ill feeling that led to the resignations, but Ahrens denied the she wrote what others claimed she wrote. Trustees who resigned indicated there were many other reasons for their resignations that had built up over a period of time.
Terrell expressed his confusion over why this would be the case. In his Aug. 7 letter, he wrote:
“Four trustees, as the majority of a seven-member board, can take control of a board. They can call a special session at any time, put an item on the agenda, make a motion, second that motion and if any four trustees vote yes, that motion carries.”
Hansen said Wednesday the four board members who resigned care about the town and she feels events somewhat spiraled out of control. If mediation is still possible, she says, the board members would agree to it.
Town administrator issues
Both Terrell and Fye agreed that Fye’s hiring as town administrator factors into the resignation equation and may be the main reason the trustees resigned en masse. Fye says she follows the legal advice and procedures as required by her positon and because the town has not previously had a town administrator, this does not always sit well with some town residents.
Terrell makes the distinction between policy and administrative measures that need to be taken by the town and agrees the distinction between the two is not well appreciated or understood. This was partly the focus of his Aug. 7 letter. Despite the tension between Fye and some board members, Fye pointed out, she received a favorable evaluation from board members last month.
Fye explained that she has been struggling with cleaning out old town files that had been misfiled for years and sorting out things that need to be kept from those that need to go. Some files must be kept for legal reasons and finding all the necessary documents has been a real challenge, she said. Straightening out town finances also has required a lot of attention, she added. The town is expecting auditors to arrive for the annual audit later this month.
Terrell said he is committed to follow the rule of law in governing the town and indicated he will do all in his power to avoid even the appearance of doing anything illegal or unethical. He feels the use of Facebook was detrimental in airing out the board’s differences, although Hansen said it was the only way she could discuss things with him at the time, as he was not returning phone calls.
Both sides accuse the other side of false statements and misrepresenting the issues. Terrell says the town has too much it is trying to accomplish to waste any more time arguing back and forth and rehashing the reasons for the resignations. Hansen agreed and said it is probably best to move on.
“All the board members worked very hard — I thought we had a great board and were moving in a great direction,” Terrell sighed. “Now we need to get back on track to get things done for the town.”