By Michael Howell
Last week Bill LaCroix and Maggie Wright brought a petition with about 500 signatures to the county commissioners supporting a budget alternative that would entail the commissioners cutting their pay and not taking their allowable mileage payments for coming to and from work. They asked the commissioners to put the issue on their agenda for discussion. The commissioners did not respond to the request at the time. Subsequently LaCroix submitted a written request to the commissioners to have the matter placed on their agenda.
Although a commissioner or department head may place issues directly on the commissioners’ agenda, a citizen request is routinely referred to the chairman of the board for inclusion or denial. In this case the chairman was out of the office for the day when the request arrived. As a result, Commission Administrator Glenda Wiles presented the request to the chairman during the administrative portion of their meeting the next morning.
When she brought up the request, however, Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher abruptly intervened, emphatically stating, “No.”
“Excuse me?” said Wiles
He said he had heard the original request and the answer was, “No.”
Wiles said, “But a written request has now been received.”
“Yea, we heard that,” snapped Kanenwisher.
“But do you want me to put him on the agenda?” asked Wiles.
“Nope,” said Kanenwisher.
“No,” said Commissioner Ron Stoltz in agreement.
Commission Chair J.R. Iman finally spoke, saying that he thought LaCroix had the ability to attend a budget discussion, “but I don’t necessarily think that we need to create a meeting about his personal discussion about an agenda item we are going to discuss anyway.”
“The board sets the agenda,” said Kanenwisher.
Iman said that he had no problem sending LaCroix a note saying that they would hold a budget discussion on such and such a day.
Kanenwisher said, “The board sets its own agenda. If there is one individual who has a specific item that he wants camera time on, press time on, we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to explain that. All kinds of people would like to come in here and spend some time but we can set our own agenda. And frankly, any individual that wants to can come and talk to any one of us, or even two, he can.”
Iman said, “I guess my decision is that he will be advised when the board is discussing financial matters.”
Kanenwisher retorted, “I wouldn’t even say that. The fact of the matter is, if we have an agenda item, we are not going to send him a letter every time.”
“No,” agreed Iman.
“Are you telling him he can come in and talk on items not on the agenda or are you telling him when the budget discussion will be held?” asked Wiles.
Iman said, “Or he can come in and talk to individual commissioners.”
The County’s budget is now out of balance by about $42,000 since a District Court Judge has placed a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Commissioners from implementing staff cuts in the Justice Courts until the matter can be decided at trial. LaCroix and Wright, and apparently about 500 people who signed their petition, would like the Commissioners to consider reducing their own hours, as state law allows, and refusing their travel mileage allowance instead of cutting more positions. The Commissioners have budgeted $20,000 to compensate themselves for travel expenditures to and from work. Reducing their hours by half would save another $150,000, according to the petitioners.