Elected leaders in a small North Idaho city are facing calls to step down from residents amid a rash of resignations from reportedly disgruntled city employees.
Dalton Gardens, a city bordering Coeur d’Alene, is dealing with the pending departures of City Attorney Caitlin Kling, City Planner Rand Wichman and Deputy Clerk Teresa Janzen.
Janzen is set to leave after Wednesday. The position of clerk/treasurer is vacant. City Clerk Valerie Anderson retired in February.
“On Thursday morning, there will be no staff here to unlock the doors,” Mayor Dan Edwards told the Coeur d’Alene Press last week. “There will be no staff here to answer telephones. There will be no staff here to pay bills. There will be no staff here to take care of our citizens. And it was easily preventable.”
Edwards told the Coeur d’Alene Press last week some departing employees are “frustrated because council will not listen to their professional advice.” He did not return multiple calls for comment prior to a meeting Monday night of the Dalton Gardens City Council.
Wichman spoke to his resignation during Monday’s meeting.
“I’ve enjoyed working for the city and I’ll miss you all and I’ll miss the residents of Dalton Gardens,” he said. “Unfortunately, my schedule is such, as many people in my profession (know), that we’re all spread a little too thin. The nature of city planner work is you really have to be on demand and available on short notice.”
Monday’s meeting was attended beyond the capacity of council chambers, with approximately 100 people listening outside, said Jeryl Archer, a fire marshal with Kootenai County Fire and Rescue. Once it was all said and done, Edwards and the four-member council fielded roughly 60 comments – mostly oral – from community members.
Many called for the resignation of City Council members Carrie Chase, Ray Craft and Robert Wuest; the Coeur d’Alene Press article said Edwards and others interviewed for the story singled out the three of them for cultivating an unhealthy atmosphere.
“Just go,” said resident Jamie Smith. “If you love the city, resign.”
Others lambasted Edwards, with some criticizing Edwards for elaborating on his perspective of the issues to the media.
Some didn’t discriminate, bringing the full council a general message: Do your jobs.
Mostly consistent throughout the night was support for Janzen to hire her as the full-time clerk/treasurer, a position she’s held in the interim admirably, according to testimony from several associated with area municipal boards.
“Although she’s been here for a short period of time, she is very, very professional. Very knowledgeable,” said Tyler Dreschel, who sits on the city’s planning/zoning commission. “She represents the city well.”
Dreschel, fire marshal for the Northern Lake Fire District, and others similarly supported the approval of Melissa Cleveland for a vacancy on the planning/zoning commission. The council did approve that appointment. Chase was opposed; Craft, who had to leave during the public comment period due to illness, was not present for the vote.
Monday’s agenda was adjusted to move a few discussions and the public comment period ahead of the rest of the agenda. The public comment period continued for around an hour and a half.
One item that was ultimately approved by the council: A hazard mitigation plan for the city. The full plan is more than 800 pages long split into two volumes, Wichman said. A majority of the council members previously tabled approving the document.
Responding to some of Edwards’ comments to the Coeur d’Alene Press, Chase said the council did not refuse to sign the document. She said the council tabled the item to get more information.
She cited a November deadline to act – a perspective several community members during their public comments criticized due to wildfire season.
“The mayor in his interview describes the all-hazard mitigation plan as a perfunctory document. The definition of perfunctory is routine, done with little care or interest,” she said. “I have no doubt that previous councils have treated this with little care or interest. This is not responsible governance.”
Wuest later added, “We are a council that reads.”
The remark aroused laughter from the audience.
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