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Ignacio mayor resigns
2/14/2013 By: Carole McWilliams
Mayor Ena Millich’s surprise resignation letter dominated Tuesday night’s town board meeting in Ignacio.
Trustees voted 5 to 1 to accept her resignation, with Tom Atencio voting no.
Town attorney Dirk Nelson said the board now has 60 days to appoint a replacement. After that, the town would have to hold a special election.
“You can use whatever process you want,” Nelson said. “Historically the board has advertised the vacancy. … I would advise you to go through an application process, but it’s not mandatory.” An appointed mayor would serve until town elections in April 2014, he said.
Trustees voted 4 to 2 to open the position to any eligible town resident. Ray Larsen and Lawrence Bartley voted no.
That wasn’t the end of debate however.
“The mayor’s resignation doesn’t mean everything is finished,” trustee Alison deKay said.
Audience member Ken Bray responded, “Let’s leave it alone and go on.”
DeKay countered, “I want to make sure the public doesn’t view the board as having this grand plan to remove the mayor. She resigned.”
Millich was at the center of debates during the process to approve this year’s budget. She argued repeatedly that the town is going broke. Those meetings were reported in the Times.
Audience member Eppie Quintana said, “I spoke to the mayor, and she still had concerns about the town’s financial condition.. Are we not $300,000 in the hole? That’s why I’m here.”
Mayor Pro Tem Stella Cox said, “There are issues still to be addressed.”
Town Manager Mike Lee spoke up then. “I think the mayor’s heart is in the right place, but she mis-spoke about the financial problems. We aren’t on the verge of going over a fiscal cliff. We expressed that if we don’t take action, we would be in trouble. The bottom line is we are fine. The mayor made some inaccurate statements.”
Finance Director Lisa Rae said the town has just over $1 million in the bank. According to the treasurer’s report in the board packet, the $1 million includes $178,431 in accounts receivable minus $1,989 in accounts payable as well as bank tallies.
Atencio objected to Lee’s statement. “The town was going to be in the hole in time,” he said. “We are losing money on water and sewer. It’s being funded by gas. We still have to watch our use of money. Because she’s gone doesn’t mean we’ll be able to drop your gas rates.”
One of the debated budget items was to fix town gas rates at $7.50 per mcf as long as market prices are below that, instead of adjusting the rate every month. The increase was to help cover gas fund transfers to the water and sewer funds.
Trustee Linda Moore said, “With the work we did on our budget, I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
That still didn’t end the debate. It continued in consideration of revised minutes for a Dec. 4 budget work session and the Jan. 8 regular board meeting.
On Jan. 8, Millich wanted changes in the Dec. 4 minutes to show that she objected three times to voting on any budget items because it was advertised as a work session.
Atencio objected that the Jan. 8 minutes were far more detailed than the usual general summary of what happened at a meeting. “To me that’s nit-picking,” he said.
His motion to re-do six pages of the Jan. 8 minutes failed for lack of a second.
DeKay commented that with “as much back and forth as there’s been in the last three months, you might need that information. To make a generalization about how people are behaving is very subjective. Having it word for word is the interpretation.”
Atencio said the part of the minutes in question started with Public Works Director James Brown’s request for a salary adjustment. The minutes should just say the topic was his request for the raise, Atencio said.
Millich cast the only no vote on that pay increase.
DeKay said, “It got heated when we dealt with the letter from the mayor to town board members. Some people were very upset by it, some thought it was fine. I think it (the minutes) needs the details in this situation.” (See separate article)
Trustee Lawrence Bartley agreed. “This way there was no question of what was included or not. The mayor was objecting to what was in the (previous) minutes.”
Audience member Mandy Rockwell agreed that Millich requested several times to have more details, things she wanted included in the minutes.
Trustees voted 5 to 1 to approve the Jan. 8 minutes as presented, with Atencio voting no. Trustees also unanimously approved the Dec. 4 minutes that had been revised at Millich’s request.
Attorney Nelson advised, “Statute doesn’t say how detailed minutes should be, just that there will be minutes. That’s the historic record. If you are going to make an error, I’d make an error on the side of too much detail.”
Trustee Moore thanked Millich for her hard work. “I think I speak for everyone here in wishing her the very best.”
Millich became mayor in April 2012 after a provisional vote was discounted, creating a 61-61 vote tie with then-mayor Cecilia Robbins in the town board election. A card draw gave the win to Robbins, but then the County Clerk determined that the provisional voter was registered and the ballot should have been counted. That gave the mayor’s seat to Millich.
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