Saguache citizens drive points home

© 2018-Center Post Dispatch

Clarifications:
In the story regarding the town board meeting in Saguache Friday Aug. 12, it was reported the Saguache Town Board passed a motion to approve agendas from April through July. The motion was made but was tabled to allow newly appointed board member Luana Lovato to look over the agendas.

Mike Wheeler of Saguache was the individual who spoke to Mayor Greg Terrell Monday, Aug. 14 regarding the resignation of former town administrator Pamela Fye.

SAGUACHE — Although three of the four trustees who resigned from the Saguache Town Board last month withdrew their resignations last week, Saguache Mayor Greg Terrell did not indicate he would accept the withdrawals or suggest the town negotiate with the three.
Terrell indicated in an interview Aug. 7 that even if the trustees wished to withdraw their resignations, readmitting them to the board might not be a wise move.
When the supporters of the three trustees — Wyoma Hansen, Janice Torrez and Amber Wilson — realized the town wasn’t willing to work with the women, they organized a protest on their behalf endorsed by a large number of town residents. May Engquist also resigned but did not withdraw her resignation.
The protest began at the Road and Bridge Building so supporters could map strategy for the special meeting the town scheduled for the same evening. At 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, some 60 supporters filed into the Saguache Community Building with around 12 signing the comment roster for the meeting, giving each resident three minutes to speak.
Citizens then sat in on the swearing in of Luana Lovato as the trustee appointed to replace Engquist.
But their comments were delayed when the board convened for an executive session to discuss personnel matters. The residents waited patiently in the community building parking lot for an hour and while a few decided to go home, most stuck it out until the executive session ended. During the wait, male residents interrupted the session to bring out chairs for elderly residents forced to stand in the parking lot, some of them on oxygen.
When the meeting resumed, citizens wasted no time making it known they wanted the trustees to be placed back on the board.
Citizens comment
Business owner Terry Gillette addressed questions to Terrell as to why the trustees could not be reappointed. Terrell responded that the resignations were treated as contract law and he was under legal advice regarding their acceptance. He also commented that they did not have to be accepted by the board to be considered valid.
Next Gillette requested Town Attorney Karen Lintott read the statute regarding resignations. The statute covered vacancies and how to fill them but not resignations and whether or not they could be rescinded. Lintott admitted no existing statute specifically covered resignations.
After further discussion, it was agreed the three trustees could submit letters of application to the town to be considered as candidates for appointment. But no promises were made that they would be reappointed since qualified town residents are free to apply for the positions.
Tina Sanchez spoke up and asked why the town had hired an interim town clerk without advertising for the position. Terrell replied that the town’s insurance carrier, CIRSA, advised that since having a town clerk falls under the necessary clause, it was a necessity to hire an interim clerk without even a deputy clerk in the town. Longtime Town Clerk Therese Garcia resigned earlier this year and Deputy Cerk Linda Ahrens resigned last month.
Sanchez replied she would like to have applied for the position, which went to Leigh Mills.
Lyn Miles was the next citizen to take the floor, asking why, since it was a necessity to hire a town clerk, Terrell did not directly hire Mills, but left this decision to Town Administrator Pam Fye. Terrell replied, “I can’t answer that.” Miles then asked Terrell if he has a mouth or has to answer to the town attorney.
“Why didn’t you reach out to the board members when you had your administrator reach out to Mills?” she queried. Terrell explained the situation involved confidential matters and if he had intervened and stepped out of his government immunity role he would have exposed the town and himself to liability.
Miles and others in the audience insisted that no major decisions should be made until the town had a full board again. “We all want these people back on the board,” she concluded.
Group spokesperson Greg Wheeler told Terrell the majority of those protesting the actions of the board want his resignation, and the reason was primarily a total lack of transparency. He also complained that none of the town’s bill are ever posted in the Saguache Crescent and the website has not been updated for months. The four-member board approved agendas from April to August at the meeting Friday.
Others complained ordinances have not been published for the public’s review prior to adoption. Citizens also said other ordinances had been changed or are now being enforced after a lapse in enforcement without notice or the chance for public discussion. Another citizen complained he was unable to review minutes from previous meetings because they had not been approved.
“We’re watching and more people are starting to watch,” Wheeler told the board. “We elected you but we don’t want you anymore,” James Montoya told Terell.
Former Saguache mayor Elvie Samora spoke next, stating the board has made financial decisions without public input. He pointed out that there has not been a town clerk since February and this violates state statutes. “You should be embarrassed,” he told Terrell, Lintott and Fye.
Several citizens again touched on the resignations and asked why the board members did not meet with Terrell to help mediate the problem. “You knew before they put in their resignations there was a problem,” one citizen noted. A citizen who identified herself as one of Terrell’s longtime friends chided him, commenting: “I find it impossible to believe you didn’t know there was an issue.” Another citizen chimed in, asking why Terrell did not seek out the problems and address them to prevent the resignations.
A citizen identified only as Jopa scolded the board for not following the Sunshine Laws and calling too many executive sessions. “Secrecy harms good faith,” he noted. “What is allowed to be discussed in executive sessions is a narrow construct.” Terrell assured the audience the board follows laws regarding executive sessions.
Ellen Cox encouraged the board to re-appoint the three trustees who resigned their positions, pointing out it was the consensus of the entire assembly that they be reappointed. Miles said this would also save time and money.
Terrell countered that state statutes require trustees to follow due process, adding, “I won’t waver from that.” Throughout the meeting, Terrell said he had no choice but to follow the law in the decisions he is making now and has made in the past.
Terrell said new trustees have to be appointed in 60 days by law. Trustee Loren Aldrich, appointed to vet trustee applications, said he would consider applications from the three board members who resigned if he received them. Aldrich confirmed he had spoken to the trustees who resigned about their reasons for resigning, but to maintain confidentiality, he said he could not expand on the reasons given to him for the resignations.
Board members tabled a decision on the dog ordinance during the meeting and postponed reviewing administrator Fye’s contract at least until the next meeting.
As of Tuesday, all three former trustees had submitted applications to regain their positions. The next scheduled town board meeting will be held Aug. 21.


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