The Stevensville Town Council is bogged down by so many problems it’s hard to know where to start the digging out.
Last Monday, a roomful of citizens turned out in the wake of former Mayor Lew Barnett’s resignation to gather information on the current quest for a new mayor, as well as to weigh in on the situation.
Several of the problems that have plagued the council for quite some time stood out to most observers:
The town attorney appears not to have a firm grasp of the law and so isn’t able to offer sound advice, yet in spite of this the council directs her to deal with numerous items, many of which could be easily handled by the town clerk, the mayor or a council member. The council doesn’t seem to understand how much money is being wasted on unnecessary legal fees.
The town clerk is apparently being given free rein to express her opinion as though she is a member of the council. At Monday’s meeting, she referred collectively to the many public comments that were expressed as “all this crap.” This was inappropriate to say the least and definitely outside the parameters of her job duties and responsibilities, as she is a paid employee of the town, not an elected official.
Council member Dan Mullan lectured the audience at length about “bullying, harassment and intimidation,” and expressed his displeasure that one council member had, after voicing her intention to resign, told the local newspaper about her experiences trying to work with council member Pat Groninger. Mullan never looked at Desera Towle, the obvious target of his diatribe, and never mentioned her name. Mullan attempted to deflect blame away from Groninger and back onto Towle, but failed miserably. Unfortunately, former teacher Mullan hasn’t yet learned the lesson that the citizens he serves are his constituents, not his students, and don’t appreciate his arrogance and his inability to actually hear any voice but his own.
The pattern of problems will most certainly continue if Acting Mayor Pat Groninger continues as Council President. He bears at least some responsibility for the previous resignations of two clerks, a council member, and a mayor. He’s had problems on every board and committee he’s served on. He’s attempted to interfere in the supervision of town employees. The scariest thing is that he is unable to see his own shortcomings. As far as he’s concerned, he’s perfectly innocent, and everyone else is lying.
This situation can be corrected if the council steps up and makes a responsible appointment of a new mayor, and then replaces the Council President. Then in November, there’s a chance to elect two new members to the council.
Council member Mullan commented that it was disappointing that, like sharks, the public only turns out “when there’s blood in the water.” In this case, the public is ready for some new blood.