Council limits commission members

FAIRMONT– The Fairmont City Council on Monday again debated a list of nominations to the Fairmont Charter Commission.

Interim City Administrator, Jeff O’Neill, shared some background on the matter and said that on March 25 the initial list of candidate names was submitted to the Fairmont City Council and that a resolution was adopted which would reduce the number of people on the charter commission from 13 to 11 and identified six individuals to fill terms on the board.

“Unfortunately with the passing of Ken Reiman (an applicant to serve on the board) that resolution became out of date and the council was asked to consider a different resolution.. on the April 8 meeting. At that point in time the council considered the circumstances and decided to forward the potential to the charter commission for a joint meeting,” O’Neill said.

However, he said at the April 16 charter commission meeting, the commission respectfully declined the offer of a joint meeting with the Fairmont City Council.

With that, O’Neill said the board could either reduce the board from 13 to 12 members or add another person to the list of candidates which was approved from the list on March 25.

Council Member Michele Miller made a motion to adopt the resolution reducing the number of charter commission members from 13 to 12. The motion was seconded by Councilor Wayne Hasek.

Council Member Britney Kawecki said, “I believe that there are many things we have done as council members, many things have been good. But I believe that the citizens won’t remember things that we’ve done that are good, but they will remember this action because this is a pure abuse of power. It’s clear that council is using their power in these seats to stack the charter commission to accomplish a goal.”

She went on to say that she’s saddened by the goal and that all of the names on the list should be submitted to a judge.

“This is very sad for the citizens of Fairmont and I feel very sorry for them,” Kawecki said.

Council Member Jay Maynard, who is also on the charter commission said, “since my name has been evoked… I’m just going to say that this council has asked in the past why so many people in the past have resigned from the charter commission and the answer is simple: people have been bullied off of it.”

He said that he believed the resolution was necessary in order to resolve the issue at hand.

Kawecki noted that it’s hard to get citizens to even run for open seats on boards and commissions and she said she believed it was because people on boards and commissions aren’t allowed to do what they were created for. She called for a vote.

In a roll call vote the motion passed 3-2 with councilors Kawecki and Randy Lubenow opposed.

Lubenow asked about the outcome of the April 16 charter commission meeting where that board passed a resolution to submit its own list of candidates to the judge and also asked to remove Maynard from its board.

Cara Brown of Flaherty and Hood, the city’s attorney, said, “both council and the commission have the authority to send their own list of names and so, in an event like this where the names are different, the judge will have to review that and determine who they are.”

She said the judge may have questions and that the firm will be in communication with the district court in the next steps.

Brown also urged the council to adopt the resolution superseding the prior resolution on March 25.

Kawecki brought up that the charter commission had previously voted to remove Maynard from its commission. She asked how the matter was not a conflict of interest.

Brown said, “we’ve looked at the issue previously and council members are permitted to serve on boards, the council and the charter commission and having a member of both bodies… a member serving on both has different hats and can serve on both. That is permissible.”

Miller made a motion to adopt resolution 2024-15 to 12 spots for charter commission members.

Brown said that council could just send the nominations for vacancies to the judge but noted that in the past alternates have been submitted to the judge.

“As we discussed, it sounds like the charter commission will also be sending a separate list (to the judge) but that they (the council) can certainly move forward,” Brown said.

O’Neill noted that the judge makes the final ruling on who is in or out on the commission and that the council is just the recommending body.

Kawecki said that councilors Hasek, Miller and Maynard chose not to submit citizens who have volunteered to serve the city.

“They are purposely excluding those names to serve the city as charter commission members,” Kawecki said.

The motion made by Miller to change the charter commission membership from 13 to 12 passed 3-2.

Moving to other matters, the council considered authorizing the city administrator to begin the process of hiring a community development professional.

O’Neill said that the item stemmed from a request from councilor Lubenow to look at the redevelopment of building department services.

“The idea of hiring a community development coordinator has been a long-standing item of interest for the city council. It’s been in the budget in years past,” O’Neill said.

He said that with a new city administrator coming in, the timing is perfect to develop a plan for the community development department to satisfy the needs of the community in that area.

With experience in the community development area, O’Neill said, “in looking at how your community development operates, you’re doing some things well and there’s some things you could be doing better.”

Maynard made a motion to authorize the city administrator to begin the process of hiring a community development professional The motion passed.

In other action, the council:

— Approved an event permit for Fairmont Soccer Association, soccer shakeout tournament on May 3.

— Approved an event permit for Jordan Fausch, CdLS awareness event on May 11.

— Approved an event permit for American Legion Post 36 and VFW Post 1222 Memorial Day parade on May 27.

— Approved appointments to the Public Utilities Commission.

— Acknowledged the retirement of city clerk Patty Monsen, who served at her final city council meeting on Monday. Her last day as city clerk for the city will be on Friday, at which point she will retire after 35 years.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today