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Less than a week into a new term of Richmond City Council, some are ducking for cover from the former councilmen they just replaced.
A special meeting was called Friday night by three of the council’s new members: Roger Kepple, Jim Dunwoodie and Terrie Stanley – after they felt a need to enact a hiring freeze on city employees.
Former Councilman Scott Marshall said the new council is already tearing down the hard work the previous council did. Marshall also asked the council not to make any budget decisions until the city’s annual audit is complete.
“You got a whole room full of city workers that are a little freaked out,” Marshall said. “You are killing the momentum that we’ve got going. We’ve got a lot of positive things going on in this town, and you guys I’m afraid are going to kill it.”
Stanley, who defeated Marshall for the Ward 4 seat, said she isn’t going to discuss city business over the phone. She said the meeting was called based on a phone call she received from Mayor Lance Green that two employees had been hired. Green said only one had been hired. Stanley said every councilman can perceive things differently and therefore should be discussed in an open format.
“I don’t think we’re trying to kill anything. We’re trying to know, and we’re trying to get knowledge,” Stanley said. “We are a council. We’re not individuals and that’s why we counsel together. I’m not going to give my opinion over the phone and I’m not going to say yea or nay over the phone. I’m going to talk about it. You can say we’re scaring everybody, but I’ve got to know what I’m doing.”
Former Councilwoman Tammy Folvarcik read a pre-written statement and asked the new council if they are willing to jeopardize safety to balance the budget.
“Are you going to ask that they [police and firemen] stop serving the people of Richmond for the sake of saving money to enable the city of Richmond to achieve a balanced budget?”
Former Councilwoman Beverly Gorham told the council the city is a City Administrator form of government and that City Administrator Rick Childers has the authority to hire and fire. It should be noted that the final decisions rest in the hands of council members.
“This man has many, many years of experience and he has a lot of education on this subject,” Gorham said. “Please listen to this man when it comes to personnel matters.”
Former Councilwoman Melissa Miller was not so kind. Miller called the new council arrogant and accused some councilmembers of making decisions in a coffee shop.
“I think in today’s economy you can cause a lot of alarm by calling a personnel meeting, or call a special meeting and label it personnel issues,” Miller said. “I think it’s arrogant, for lack of a better word, to call a special meeting with less than 48 hours experience. I think this city will crumble if it is governed from a coffee shop.”
Miller’s comments received applause from the crowd, which upset Stanley’s husband Kevin.
“That is not decorum,” Kevin said. “They are heckling some people like him [former Mayor Ed Swafford] and clapping for people like her.”
Stanley was referring to earlier in the meeting when Green questioned a concern Swafford had that again was followed by applause from the crowd. While Swafford was speaking, chatter and laughter could be heard in the crowd.
Miller continued to chastise the council and echoed Marshall’s statements about scaring employees.
“I think the special meeting was called on heresay based on conversations. I think it’s arrogant to make rash decisions,” she said. “I know a special meeting shouldn’t be used every time you feel like having a conversation. I don’t feel like this is urgent. I think you’re putting the cart before the horse. I don’t think it’s fair to the people of this city to scare them.”
Stanley asked Miller how she knew what the council was going to talk about and how she knew what decisions the council was ready to make.
“How do you know what we called the meeting for? How do you know what we’re going to ask? I think you’re jumping to conclusions here,” Stanley said.
The council will meet again tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. for a budget meeting.