Volume 104, Number 34 - August 23, 2007
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P&Z board ‘coup’
With two vacancies on the town Planning and Zoning (P&Z) board, Mayor Steve Smith has now requested P&Z Chair Robert Brito tender his resignation.
“It’s kind of like a coup,” P&Z member Paul Rock said of the recent happenings, acknowledging that he, Barbara Boyce and Brito are three of the most outspoken board members. “Something’s going on.” Everything that has been taking place regarding this matter began at the P&Z meeting at the beginning of the month, Brito said. “[P&Z Administrator] Meghan [Jacquet] came out and said Paul Rock and Barbara Boyce were no longer on Planning and Zoning,” he said. “She said their terms were over and have no right to be there.”
Once the announcement was made to the board, Brito said he was surprised at what was taking place.
“It was a shock to me, it was a shock to Paul, it was a shock to Barbara,” he said. Brito said Smith called him last week with a surprising request.
“He said ‘I want your resignation or you’re terminated,’” Brito said, adding that he questioned the reasoning. “He said ‘Because I’m the mayor and I can.”
Thinking that it was time for a change on the P&Z board, Smith said he had every legal right to request Brito’s resignation. “I just decided to request his resignation and we’ll go from there,” Smith said, adding that he is very appreciative of Brito and everything he has done on the board and for the community.
Feeling as though he was not given a logical explanation for his removal, Brito said he told the mayor he would hand down his decision by the end of the week. He then called his attorney to find out if Smith actually had the authority to dismiss the chair of the P&Z board.
“I’m not a political appointee. I’m not a public employee,” Brito said of his non-political board position. “… The mayor has taken it upon himself to terminate threefifths of the board.”
After conferring with his attorney, Clark Stith, Brito said it was determined that Smith was in the wrong.
“The mayor cannot remove me,” he said. “… Ed Wood told him straightforward that he cannot do it. It’s not in his authority, not in his power to do that.”
Once he was made aware of this fact, Brito said he told Smith to do what he had to do, but his resignation would not be forthcoming. Smith said he has been in contact with Town Attorney Ed Wood regarding the issue, but would not disclose any further information. “That’s between the town and town attorney,” he said. “It’s privileged.”
Stith said he had a cordial discussion with Wood about Smith’s request and went over the town ordinances. “There does not appear to be anything that gives him that authority,” Stith said. “The ordinance does not provide for removal without cause.”
A lot of the issues leading to the recent happenings came to a head at the Aug. 6 P&Z meeting when Union Telephone Company requested a variance to place antennas on Stockman’s Restaurant and Lounge, Brito said. The Union representatives showed up with their paperwork and Brito said one thing jumped out at him.
“I noticed [the request] came in three months prior,” he said. “They said they just received the paperwork the day before the meeting.” There was no reason for the delay because Jacquet and Town Engineer Eugene Ninnie had three months to get the company their recommendations and the proper paperwork, Brito said.
During the meeting, Jacquet asked that the request be tabled until the Sept. 3 P&Z meeting because Union Telephone Company did not have their stuff back, Brito said. “It’s unacceptable,” he said. “It’s not a major zone change.”
In front of the board, Brito said he questioned Jacquet about the amount of time it was taking to get through the paperwork. “She said she was busy,” he said. “ … For three months?”
Once this was brought up, Brito said Jacquet was clearly upset and that Rock and Boyce expressed their concerns over what was happening as well.
As chair of the P&Z board, Brito said he constantly receives complaints about the P&Z administration, Jacquet in particular. Many people have come forth and told him Jacquet is rude, not public-friendly and doesn’t disclose helpful information, Brito said. With so many grumblings about the P&Z administrator, Brito said he approached the mayor with his concerns.
“He said he’d look into it,” he said. “Nothing changed. I still have the same people with the same complaints.”
Rock acknowledged that it appears as though Jacquet is trying to take over the P&Z board and run it her way. “Meghan has tried to change the format of the meetings,” Rock said.
In agreement with Rock, Brito said Jacquet suggested the members sit in the Town Council seats instead of at the table on the floor.
“It increases your level of authority,” Rock said. “We don’t want that.” Another qualm Brito and Rock said they had about Jacquet was when she introduced a request from the Pinedale Bible Church to have residential property rezoned as highway commercial in order for the owners to receive more money when they refinance the mortgage at the Aug. 6 P&Z meeting. “When we were at that meeting, Meghan said we had to listen to [the request],” Brito said.
Upset because the item was not advertised to the public and that the owners were not informed they were on the agenda, Brito said the board listened to the request regardless. “[Meghan] said ‘Make a decision tonight or we won’t have a say,’” he said, adding that Jacquet was wrong in her facts.
After talking with Sublette County Planner Bart Myers, Brito said he was informed that the church’s request was not to go before the County P&Z board until September. “He said he absolutely told Meghan that it would not be on this month’s agenda,” Brito said.
Since all of these issues have surfaced, Rock said it is not a coincidence that many of the town P&Z board members have made it a point to be present at the Town Council meetings.
“I don’t trust [Jacquet] to convey our recommendations properly to the Town Council,” Rock said.
Some citizens are also concerned with some of the things that have been taking place in regards to zoning. “We live here because this is the kind of country we want to live in,” said Mike Grove, owner of Rocky Mountain Home Center. “Meghan doesn’t even live in Pinedale. If you don’t live here, then don’t dictate the things we’re doing … ”
The mayor has been informed of the concerns surrounding Jacquet, but Brito said no action has been taken to resolve any of them. “He doesn’t want to exercise any adult supervision,” Rock said.
At the Aug. 13 Town Council meeting, Rock said he saw an advertisement in the newspaper for the hiring of a town municipal officer. This person would be responsible for enforcement of town ordinances, among other things.
Brito said many townspeople might not be aware of what the creation of this position could mean for the town.
“If you build something, they can be there,” he said. “He can give tickets … People have the right to freedoms and that will change in Pinedale real quick.”
Brito said that once the position is filled and the job description is more clearly defined, many people will probably be mad. “The enforcer will make a lot, a lot of people upset,” he said. “And [the mayor] is allowing that to happen.”
As for the two vacancies on the P&Z board, the acceptance of applications was advertised with the deadline at 5 p.m. Monday. Rock said he was unsure of his and Boyce’s current standing on the board. “I don’t know what the status is,” Rock said, adding that some determination would most likely be made at the next Town Council meeting on Monday. “Maybe that means we’re still on.”
Jacquet did not return several phone calls regarding this issue.
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