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After hiring new clerk, Dalton Gardens hopes to ‘rebuild’ following staff resignations

UPDATED: Fri., May 28, 2021

Members of the Dalton Gardens City Council meet Thursday to approve a new clerk/treasurer during a special meeting at City Hall.  (Greg Mason / The Spokesman-Review)
Members of the Dalton Gardens City Council meet Thursday to approve a new clerk/treasurer during a special meeting at City Hall. (Greg Mason / The Spokesman-Review)

Without a clerk or a deputy clerk to hold the fort, Dalton Gardens City Hall was closed much of Thursday and will not reopen until after the Memorial Day weekend.

The small city bordering Coeur d’Alene is contending with staff shortages amid a flurry of recent resignations. City Attorney Caitlin Kling, Planner Rand Wichman and Deputy Clerk Teresa Janzen all tendered their resignations within the last three weeks, Mayor Dan Edwards said. Code Enforcement Officer Eric Killen resigned just a few weeks before that.

“It’s just been built up for a year and five months that we’ve been here. We’re a brand new mayor and council,” he said. “The council has a problem listening to expert advice, whether it comes from our attorney, our engineer, our planner. They just have a hard time trusting professional advice. … Everybody’s just having a hard time working with this council.”

With the clerk/treasurer’s position, Valerie Anderson retired in February. When her replacement ended up leaving after just a month, Janzen took on those duties in the interim, Edwards said.

Some on the Dalton Gardens City Council thought they addressed the clerk’s vacancy Monday during a meeting that filled council chambers beyond capacity – and saw many residents publicly call on several council members to resign.

Following an executive session, the four-member council voted 2-1 to promote Janzen to clerk/treasurer, with Councilmember Carrie Chase opposed and Councilmember Ray Craft absent. Janzen, who has declined to comment, accepted the position, Edwards said.

The council had to call a special meeting Thursday to revisit the vote, however. Idaho law requires a supermajority for approving appointed positions, Kling said.

Council voted 3-1 Thursday, with Chase opposed, to hire Janzen. Her salary will be $52,000 per year retroactive to May 1; as deputy clerk, she made $14.85 an hour, Edwards said.

Edwards said Janzen is out of town and will return to work Tuesday.

Her presence was missed Thursday as council members struggled through microphone feedback and other technical issues. While past council meetings were broadcast via Zoom, Thursday was in-person only.

“Teresa runs all that and she’s gone today,” Edwards said.

With Janzen in place, Edwards said the city will now get to work on finding a replacement attorney, planner, code enforcement officer and deputy clerk.

On Thursday, councilmembers Craft and Robert Wuest were present, while Chase and Aaron O’Brien called in via speakerphone.

Challenging Janzen’s appointment, Chase claimed during the meeting that the terms of Janzen’s pay and probationary period that were ultimately approved Thursday were different from what was discussed Monday.

Kling said anything approved Monday was void since council fell short of a supermajority. Chase then referenced Janzen’s resignation letter with her dissent.

“If Teresa resigned, which she did, she must apply for the position,” Chase said. “Then, she is in competition with all of the other candidates and loses her advantage of in-house promotion.”

The clerk/treasurer position was posted and advertised, Kling said. Edwards said he interviewed eight candidates, including Janzen, out of 35 applicants. Janzen was his choice.

Chase, Wuest and Craft did not return requests for comment.

Edwards said he believes many of the council members were “pretty humbled” after Monday’s meeting. Out of this, Edwards said he plans to start a public Facebook page to post council vote results in an effort to increase transparency.

“They may not make the best decisions all the time, but I still think they’re very good people,” Edwards said of the council. “So we go forward with that and we can rebuild our city and make it a great city again.”

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