CENTER — Following the departure of Town Clerk and Treasurer Joan Mobley last week, the town of Center is mulling over what it can do to find a suitable town manager and clerk to better secure their financial future.
Mobley left after it was discovered she pled guilty in March to federal offenses involving making false statements and aggravated identity theft while working for the Internal Revenue Service prior to her hiring by the town.
Town Attorney Michael Trujillo said during the meeting Tuesday they discovered Mobley’s criminal charges shortly after her resignation was announced and relieved her of her duties three weeks prior to her scheduled quitting date. He also said he does not know if there have been any financial discrepancies reported during her time as clerk.
Mobley said during an interview with the Center Post-Dispatch two weeks ago that the town’s finances were in good shape and the audit would go smoothly.
Adeline Sanchez said the town needs a separate manager and clerk, a suggestion made years ago by the town’s insurance carrier CIRSA. Jane Berry served briefly as town manager in 2014. It was suggested the town manager’s position be advertised on the Colorado Municipal League’s website.
After Bill McClure advised the Utility Board should be revived to help monitor the utilities in the town during citizen comments, Trustee Sanchez, Trustee Mary McClure and attorney Trujillo agreed. Sanchez then noted that for now the town needs an interim clerk, and recommended the town hire Bill McClure to fill in until a permanent clerk with accounting experience could be hired. Trustee Mary McClure seconded the recommendation and attorney Trujillo seemed to favor it.
Bill McClure told the board he was “just trying to help the town of Center.” He cited his 45 years of accounting experience as an incentive for the town to hire him, reminding the board he had turned Center’s financial situation around once before when he was clerk and the town was in a bind. He offered to do the job on a contract basis for $40 an hour.
Mayor Herman Sisneros objected that if McClure was hired, some town employees had threatened to quit. He also told McClure some town residents would not be happy if he was hired. When McClure criticized him for his statements, Sisneros seemed more open to the idea of hiring McClure.
McClure said he would serve temporarily and would help the town look for someone qualified to permanently fill the position. He urged the board to look for an individual with an accounting degree with “vast” experience.
As the vote to retain McClure drew closer, the mayor’s mother objected that when McClure was town clerk previously he had fired several town employees. McClure told her she was upset because one of those employees was her brother-in-law, but she denied this and said several people not related at all to her were fired.
Trustee Archie Gallegos objected to Mary McClure voting, claiming it constitutes a conflict of interest because the two were married, and cited trustee absences as a reason to wait on the vote. Trustee Sanchez said that only if some financial gain is involved could a conflict of interest be claimed.
McClure became agitated and said he withdrew his offer to help the town with its books. He told them they would “run Center into the ground” without a qualified person to handle its finances. He then left the meeting.
Trujillo explained to the board that the town needs a new clerk but also needs someone else with “very good accounting skills to keep things straight.” He said he believes the utility commission should be re-established, even if only as an advisory board. Bill McClure headed the previous commission.
He explained that there are only four towns in the state that run their own utilities and Center’s utility business especially is “complicated stuff.” Trujillo indicated the town needs someone in a clerk and/or manager’s position capable of dealing competently with these complex issues. The board adjourned without making a decision on the matter.
During citizen comments, former municipal judge James Sanchez told the town that new speeding signs limiting the speed along Worth Street to 15 MPH are not properly posted and could result in those ticketed requesting their tickets be dismissed. Several residents in town already have paid fines for exceeding the speed limit on Worth.
He noted that many people are unaware of the new speed limit and told the board the 15 MPH signs must be set up separately, not attached to utility poles. He also complained about police coverage in town and endorsed Bill McClure’s previous suggestion to re-establish the utility board.
The board discussed the success of Center’s fireworks display July 4 and trustees said they heard nothing but compliments about the show, with citizens requesting it become an annual event. A large crowd attended the display, the mayor said. Three different bands performed at the event.
Complaints were made that because bathrooms at the downtown park are locked, citizens are relieving themselves behind the building. It was suggested that signs be placed in Spanish and English posting the times the bathrooms are open. It was suggested those times should be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.
The board agreed to keep moving forward with the RES solar project for now. Assistant Clerk Rose DeHerrera told trustees the town’s broadband would have to be discontinued for now until it can be placed before voters in November.