From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 23 - August 30, 3007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Mayor Smith dismisses P&Z chair

by Tiffany Turner

For several weeks now there has been a public concern with the opening of two positions on the town of Pinedale’s Planning and Zoning (P&Z) board.

Paul Rock and Barbara Boyce previously held these positions and there has been much community speculation and concern as to why these positions were vacated and if it was done in a fair and proper manner. According to a statement released by Mayor Steve Smith, the fact that these two positions had not been reappointed came to light during review of the town’s Master Plan and was “absolutely no reflection of the volunteer service provided by Mr. Rock and Mrs. Boyce. I am deeply appreciative of their years of service, sometimes a thankless and challenging job.”

“To meet the requirements of town ordinances, those two board appointments needed to be renewed,” Smith added. “We were required to advertise volunteer board openings...(Rock and Boyce) are welcome to reapply for the open board positions, as are other residents.”

In addition to the growing concern for these two board positions, last week it was brought to the attention of the Pinedale community that Smith had invited a resignation from Robert Brito, chair of the Pinedale Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board. “The mayor called me and said ‘you’re the chair, I want your resignation or you will be terminated,’” Brito said. “I feel I have done absolutely nothing to deserve to be terminated.”

Brito claimed that when he asked Smith for reasons behind the request for his resignation, Smith replied that he wished to realign the board. Brito stated that he spok to his attorney and his attorney informed him that the mayor did not have the right to terminate a volunteer boardmember. “He called and told me ‘absolutely not,’” Brito said. “The mayor cannot remove me for any reason.”

“I told him to do what he had to do, but Iwould not resign,” Brito added. “Not from a board that many have shown appreciation for how it’s run.” Brito stated that he felt Smith was attempting to create a board that served the council as opposed to a board centered on "customer services.” “Here is an attempt to kickoff three members of the board right when a new master plan is going on – it just looks suspicious to me,” Brito said.

Brito also mentioned problems with a staff member that he said he had heard many complaints about and did not feel the mayor was dealing with that problem appropriately. Rock agreed stating that he had dealt with the same issue when he was chair of the P&Z board.

“I took these complaints when I was chairbefore (Brito),” Rock said. “(Smith) doesn’t want to use any ‘adult supervision,’ I guess.” “It’s just wrong,”Brito said. The issues concerning all three vacancies were again addressed at the Aug. 27 Pinedale Town Council meeting with Brito, Rock and Boyce in attendance to address Smith, the council and the public.

When the floor was opened to the public for comments, Brito stood with information in hand and spoke with the board concerning his issues with staffing, his requested resignation and the way things had been dealt with.

Brito spent several minutes showing the council and the mayor different ordinances, none of which, he said, gave the mayor the right to terminate him. “I’d like to remind you that all I did was ask for your resignation,” Smith said in discussion of the phone conversation that he and Brito had previously had.

“No,” Brito countered. “You said to me verbatim ‘you resign or you will be terminated.” Brito continued showing documentation and quoting his lawyer stating that Smith had no right to terminate him. Town attorney EdWood, although previously quoted as stating the mayor did not have the right, spoke against Brito’s claim that the mayor could not remove him.

“It is and was my opinion that the mayor had the right (to do it),” Wood said. In his previous release, Smith had stated that board members serve at the discretion of the mayor.

“Does the town council have the authority to remove him?” council member Gary Heuck asked in an attempt to understandt he rules.

Wood stated that much like the previous case concerning the town chief of police, only the mayor had the authority. Brito also brought an example to the board concerning his staffing problems, but Heuck refused to hear them claiming the board had already seen and made a motion on the proposals and were aware of the issues Brito had with the staff member in question. “I’m telling you right now, we’re not going to listen to it,” Heuck said.

Brito stated that he was just trying to clarify things for the board and he felt they did not underst and what was happening. “We’ve got the gist of it,” council member Chris House said. “You were asked to resign and you don’t want to – you’ll do whatever – don’t waste our time.”

“I think the public would like to know,”Brito said. “What this council and the board decide affects them tremendously.” As for Rock and Boyce, Smith said, “A good conspiracy theory is always fun, but its simply not the case.”

Smith stated that Boyce and Rock had both reapplied and a decision would be made soon as to who would fill the two vacant board seats.

The council chose to go into executive session to discuss the P&Z positions, and although Brito was invited, he declined due to his lawyer not being present. “After executive session the town council approved the reappointments of Barbara Boyce and Paul Rock to the town P&Z board,” said Mayor’s Assisstant Lauren McKeever. “Separately, Robert Brito was dismissed by the mayor. The town council approved the mayor’s action with a unanimous vote of approval.”

“The mayor has made the decision and town council has made the decision even though the law says they cannot do that,” Brito said. “I have been told I can (file) an injunction...and stop the P&Z process altogether... and force the town to put me back on the committee, and thec ourts would support me.

“I believe every American needs to be involved in their community, in their town, in their neighborhood...they need to be involved in what happens. It is a responsibility as an American and that is why I am there.” “I know I did an excellent job,” Brito added. “I was fair, I was equal and I let everyone speak their mind at all times.”

Although Brito stated that all legal counsel he had spoken to have informed him that he has the right to go to court and prove that the position rightfully belonged to him, he is currently deciding whether halting the process would be in the best interest of the town.

“In public they wouldn’t give me any comment what so wrong doing, neglect, nothing,” Brito said. He also stated that the reason for his denial of the invitation to the executive session was because he would then be unable to discuss anything said and his lawyer advised him against it.

“Do it in public, let me defend myself there,” Brito said. “That just shows you how our town government wants to run things... it’s pretty black and white.”

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