From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 51 - March 12, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Council’s executive session questioned

by Tiffany Turner and Derek Farr

After an abnormally short Pinedale Town Council meeting Monday, council member Dave Smith made a motion to adjourn to an executive session to discuss “town finances.”

The motion was seconded and unanimously approved. Smith also requested that Town Attorney Ed Wood remain in the council room for the discussion.

According to Wyoming State Statutes, executive sessions at a public meeting (16-4-405), “town finances” is not a qualified reason to remove the public from the discussion.

“Then we screwed up,” Smith said, when questioned about the validity of calling an executive session for town finances. “That’s the motion I made, that’s motion we went in there for. … You learn something new every day, but if that’s (not a reason) … we screwed up.”

The town insists, however, the issue discussed in the executive session is statutorily qualified for confidentiality.

“If that is what it was called for (in the motion), that is wrong. … It was actually a conversation about personnel,” Mayor Steve Smith said. “The reason for the executive session was for personnel … because of the rules of executive session I cannot disclose what actually happened.”

According to Wyoming Statute 16-4-405 (a-ii) the council can go into executive session to discuss “the appointment, employment, right to practice or dismissal of a public officer, professional person or employee, or to hear complaints or charges brought against” them. After the preliminary executive session, the governing body is then allowed to hold additional executive sessions to deliberate on a decision.

Wood stated changes will be made to reflect the actual reason for the executive session Monday and the minutes would remain confidential as the actual discussion was a legal executive session.

“That was a misstatement; it should have been for personnel,” Wood said. “I was anticipating what they were going to do, so when they said finances, I missed it. … That was on my shoulders.”

No motion was made after the executive portion of the meeting, and according to the town, the session followed state statute and no motion was made during that time either.

It is being suggested the session regarded questionable credit-card charges made by Mayor Smith during a trip to Washington, D.C., for President Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The mayor called the suggestions of impropriety “completely inaccurate.”

According to Smith, he used the town credit cards after his wife lost her purse and the two were forced to cancel their personal credit cards. With those cards cancelled, Smith said he used the town’s card for two hotel stays, two dinners and airport parking totaling around $400.

“It was an inconvenient thing to do, but I had no choice at the time,” Smith said, adding he promptly reimbursed the town upon his return to Pinedale, and the town council and Wood were made aware of the situation.

“I had no intention to defraud anybody,” he said. “It’s something I had to do in a pinch.”

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