From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 9, Number 4 - April 16, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Card misuse heading to Attorney General?

by Tiffany Turner

Two topics have remained at the top of the list during the citizens’ concerns portion of Pinedale’s Town Council meeting: the mayor’s use of town property and the town’s monetary responsibility for costs incurred by residents whose pipes froze along the water and sewer replacement area in Redstone Subdivision this winter.

Several meetings over the past months have been spent discussing both sides of both arguments, with neither side willing to budge on their stance on the issues.

The credit-card debacle plaguing council meetings, as to whether or not Pinedale Mayor Steve Smith’s personal use of town credit cards was accidental and what should be done about the usage, did not come to a close Monday night.

Pinedale citizens Paul Rock and Gary Hueck, along with others, have recently uncovered usage of the cards, including the mayor’s admitted use on an east coast during the Obama inauguration when, the mayor says, he and his wife were forced to cancel their cards due to his wife’s purse, which was holding all of her cards, being lost or stolen.

The group has also uncovered usage of the card at a store in Denver (which the mayor said was for personal belongings) and the purchase of alcohol from a local establishment.

The mayor adamantly backs his position that, other than the emergency use of the cards in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, it was accidental.

He states he has also repaid the town for all charges he put on the cards for personal reasons.

Several people in the audience backed the mayor, stating that they too have accidentally used their work credit cards for private purchases and in turn paid them back.

“It was an unfortunate mistake, and I have reimbursed the town,” Mayor Smith said. “I know how it looks, but I made a mistake.”

Hueck and Rock, supported by council member Smith did not find that acceptable, especially, Smith said, for a government official.

“It seems to me you have misplaced and misspoke an awful lot,” council member Smith said. “How could you accidentally use the wrong credit card, I have five credit cards and when I use one I know which one I am using…The story keeps changing and that is the part I don’t like… It is suspicious.”

Council member Smith said he would like to see changes made in the town’s credit card usage policy, so this situation never arises again.

“I don’t think it is good leadership on our part to be in this position again,” he said. “I think we need to straighten this out and make a new policy, because I am still not happy.”

Council member Smith said he would like to see all credit cards gathered and destroyed or at least not constantly in the pocket of any staff member or town official.

“This is just one mistake after another, if it was just one or possibly two things, maybe (it could slide), but come on,” Council member Smith said.

Council member Smith said if a solution could not be made in house he would be filing a complaint with the Attorney General’s office.

Municipal Officer Jennifer Gocke spoke up stating that doing so would just be a waste of town funds and time, calling the entire situation petty.

“I think that is easy for people to say who haven’t taken and oath to serve the town of Pinedale,” council member Smith said.

No agreement was reached on the council that was acceptable to council member Smith, and he said he would be sending his letter of complaint to the Attorney General’s office to allow them to make a decision, stating he would follow whatever decision they make.

“If you don’t think I made a mistake and I am trying to make it right, then you can go that route,” Smith said.

The other issue raised during citizens concerns did come to a close.

A resolution was passed for the repayment on frozen pipes, with the town willing to pay 50 percent of the costs incurred for residents whose pipes froze in that area. The resolution will only apply to pipes that froze this winter.

Pinedale town engineer Eugene Ninnie and the engineering companies involved with the project, however, state that the situation was not caused by any sort of miscalculation of engineering default on their part. For this reason, the engineering companies refuse to partner with the town in the repayment.

“It had nothing to do with their engineering or their engineering capabilities,” Ninnie said.

Council member David Smith disagreed, stating the project is what they were hired to do and since something went wrong, it is also their responsibility to step up.

He did, however, agree that the residents affected deserved some form of aid, as it could not be proved in any direction where the fault belonged.

“As residents, you deserve the benefit of the doubt,” Mayor Steve Smith said.

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