GLADWIN – A special City Council meeting was held on Monday, Feb. 10 at the Gladwin City Hall. The agenda for the meeting was to discuss an attorney letter addressed to the council as well as to approve the City Administrator’s retroactive pay per contract.
During the Feb. 3 council meeting, City Administrator Chris Shannon’s two year contract was accepted. On Feb. 10, the council approved his retroactive pay.
On Jan. 6, the City Attorney, Jaynie Hoerauf, issued a letter addressed to the mayor as well as the council. This letter was created as an attempt to help the council “sort things out and map a path forward” according to Hoerauf. Mayor Pro Tem, Mike Smith called a special City Council meeting to discuss the letter after everyone had some time to familiarize themselves with its contents.
The letter is clearly designed to address issues within the council. As Hoerauf states in her letter;
“It is apparent to me that Council functions are being impaired by conflict and could run more smoothly. […] The conflict between the Council majority and the Mayor must be dealt with.”
In the introduction of the letter, Hoerauf explains that she has been asked to state her opinion on the functions and powers of the mayor.
“The Mayor is the ‘titular head’ and chief executive officer of the City,” Hoerauf wrote. “I expect this word [titular] was used because your structure is a ‘weak mayor’ (mayor-council) form of government,”
Hoerauf then lists information pertaining to the role of Mayor in this form of government. The information is written as it was by Hoerauf;
- Your Mayor does not vote in Council or committee.
- The Mayor lacks any veto powers.
- The Charter specifies grants of powers to preside at City Council meetings, ceremonial duties.
- Places your Mayor as an ex-officio member of committees, again non-voting. Ex-officio means “by virtue of the office,” which means that the Mayor is not counted for quorum, nonvoting, and does not hold one of the allocated seats on whatever committee we are discussing.
- The Charter then directs us back to other laws, for any other mayoral powers.
The letter then continues to cover various state laws regarding additional mayoral powers.
“The long and the short of it is that under your Charter, apart from running the meetings, the Mayor has little authority beyond the ceremonial,” Hoerauf wrote. “This does not mean that the Mayor cannot comment on matters before the Council. The Mayor can make herself heard.”
Shifting matters to the council, the letter states that collectively, Council Members have all other powers of government including budget, spending, and administrative.
“No member of the Council, including the Mayor, is allowed to give direction to public employees.” Hoerauf wrote. “The chain of command is established that the Council manages the City Administrator and the City Administrator manages everyone else.”
Hoerauf continues by offering ethics materials that discuss civility in local government and an overview of internal discipline via Roberts Rules of Order to the Council. She also gives her own professional advice as well as guidance to help the council obtain a more stable function.
“If you cannot separate your personal feelings of animosity for an individual from your obligations to the City and its citizens, you should do some introspection,” Hoerauf wrote.
After Mayor Pro Tem, Mike Smith read through the letter, he addressed his fellow councilmen and women saying that they need to work together as a council along with the Mayor.
Smith then opened up the meeting for comments from the Council members. Councilwoman Linda Winarski then read aloud a statement that she had prepared to address Hoerauf’s letter.
“Madame Mayor and fellow council members,” Winarski read. “About two and a half years ago, you were appointed Mayor by the council. At that time, I supported you and thought you deserved a chance to hold that office. After you were elected to the position, it became quite clear that you did not know what your role was.”
Winarski continued with her statement mentioning that in accordance with Hoerauf’s letter, the local form of government is a weak mayor form and adding that the Mayor “essentially has no power.”
“You can shake the hands, cut the ribbons and kiss the babies,” Winarski read. “Your one job is to preside over our council meetings which you sometimes don’t do very well. You have interfered in every department, and caused a great deal of chaos and drama. I have heard in the community, that the council is divided – this is not the case. If it were, we would have a lot of 4-4 decisions, and thats not happening. The decision is between most of the Council and the Mayor. It is a direct result of the Mayor undermining everything the Council and the City Manager tries to do. It is a direct result of the Mayor not wanting to obey the rules or follow proper procedures. It is the direct result of the Council not being able to trust the Mayor. Having this meeting to address these concerns is not an easy thing to do. We had all hoped that the Mayor would recognize on her own that her behavior was not appropriate. When that did not happen, we were forced to confront her on these issues.”
Councilwoman Winarski concluded her statement by explaining that the Mayor is wasting taxpayer money by hanging out at city hall, the police department, and the public works department; keeping the city employees from doing their work.
Mayor Darlene Jungman then responded to the Councilwoman’s statement.
“I’ve been on the council for over 30 years,” Jungman said. “When Jim Roberson was here it was a strong mayor, when Earl Schuster was here it was a strong mayor, when Tom Winarski came on it was a weak mayor. I can honestly say that I have not been down to the police department since Eric [Killian] has been elected Chief of Police so I don’t know where your getting this information from. And yes I go down to the DPW and I take them cookies down there because I think that they’re doing a good job. I do want to say to everybody here that we broke the Open Meeting Act when you wanted to go into a closed session to discuss Chris’ [Shannon] evaluations and for 47 minutes there was several of you that bad mouthed me. That was terrible, just terrible and you talked for nine minutes about Chris’ evaluations – I didn’t appreciate that. And you Linda, are the one that spoke up in that meeting and accused this woman and the other one of making statements about Chris to me – that is a dirty lie. So I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, and I’m telling you right now Linda, you are the problem. Since I have been on the council, I have never ever worked with a councilperson like you, you have created more disrupt by calling the council people and saying things to them, like when we go into meetings here we’re supposed to be discussing something; its already been discussed already behind closed doors or over the telephone. That isn’t how we work, we’re supposed to discuss it when it comes in front of us. I’m going to say I don’t appreciate you and I will really fight to have you [not be] reelected at the next meeting because I think you are one of the worst council people we’ve ever had – you’re a troublemaker. I rest my case.”
Councilwoman Carol Darlington spoke afterward and mentioned that she believes in “airing things out” but that what was going on wasn’t going to help move things forward for the Council.
“I really feel that we have a strong possibility of working together,” Darlington said. “But I believe that each one of us needs to look at our own behavior and we need to police our own behavior as well.”
Mayor Jungman spoke to what Darlington said. Jungman said that everyone needs to work together for the city but that there are one or two people that are always “cutting a person down” and that it is hindering the ability to move forward. She believes in forgetting grudges and learning to work together for the good of Gladwin.
“We need to change our ways, we all have to change our ways.” Jungman said.
Councilwoman Nancy Bodnar claimed that change and forgetting grudges would be a difficult task for the council due to the fact that everyone knows each other well. She then turned to Mayor Jungman.
“You have just spoken about getting along but you also in your statement before that said how we’re going to attack Winarski, so are you going to try to get along with her?” Bodnar said.
“I’ve tried to get along with her,” Jungman replied. “I have taken her to coffee and I have hugged her and said ‘we’re going to work together’ and it worked for two weeks and then the next thing I know, I’m getting calls from people saying she’s bad mouthing me again.”
Councilwoman Bodnar continued by stating that something has to be done to move past the disagreement within the council.
“Whatever that animosity is, it has now flowed into our council and it needs to go away,” Councilman Roger Gardner said.
Councilwoman Sarah Kile included that deliberation needs to be made in public. To speak with fellow council members outside of the meetings is still appropriate, but on material presented to the council, it is most appropriate to discuss in session according to Kile. She mentioned that she has had to do her research on things before being brought up in session due to the fact that everyone was informed out of session.
“Personally, one of our council members told me that there are decisions that are made before folks get here.” Kile said. “I understand the desire to have a conversation but deliberation is suppose to be a public matter.”
Drawing attention back to Hoerauf’s letter, Councilman Dave Crawford said that he believes the purpose of the letter is for the Mayor and all council members to better understand their roles and to make sure that no one oversteps their position.
“I think the flow of our meetings are going better, I believe, since we put in the public comment,” Crawford said. “Now here’s the caution – restrict the public comment to the public comment period. That does not mean that later on one of our items, that we’re going to get into a discussion or an argument with the public on an item, that time has gone, that’s our decision now.”
Mayor Pro Tem, Mike Smith agreed with Crawford that the public comment section of the meetings has been helpful. Smith also said that he believes that the Mayor as well as the council has the best interest of the city in mind and that he agrees with the importance of working together.
“I think this is getting it out in the open,” Jungman said. “I think this is what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to work together.”