An email exchange Aurora Sentinel Reporter Sara Castellanos happened to come by about a departing councilwoman and the void on a committee makes it look like some council members aren’t playing nice right now.
The sandbox dustup started earlier this week, when without discussing the matter with the rest of the city council, Councilwoman Barb Cleland, the current mayor Pro Tem, chaired a policy committee meeting in place of former chairwoman, Melissa Miller. Miller resigned from council earlier this month.
“Huh,” you say? Depending on whom you talk to, you might get the idea that Cleland went all Al Haig over running the committee meeting. Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan thought the appropriate person to chair the committee was the panel’s vice chairman, Bob Roth.
Hogan’s beef is that Cleland, as a Pro Tem mayor, should have never stepped in to chair the meeting. He says no pro-tem mayor has formally chaired a policy committee meeting before, at least not during the 30 years he’s been a part of council. The city attorney said it’s not technically against council rules, Castellanos found out, but it could be seen as a conflict of interest or “stacking” of the committee, according to Hogan.
And there you have it. Feeling compromised yet? Reading into the email exchange, here’s why you might:
“At the very least, this is not a normal process, and in my opinion can lead to charges of ‘using’ or ‘fixing’ the committees,” Hogan wrote in an email copied to other council members and city attorneys, which unleashed some electronic communication drama.
(Cue the “Jaws” string section, folks. This is where it gets tense)
• Cleland responded to Hogan’s email saying she was asked by Roth and Marsha Berzins, another committee member, to chair the committee.
• Roth wrote that it never occurred to him that it would be a problem, but he did, in fact, ask her to chair the meeting. “I figured since it was only interim, for one meeting until Miller’s replacement is seated, it made some sense,” he wrote.
• Berzins made the point that there were two city attorneys at the public safety meeting, who surely would have said something if what Cleland did was inappropriate.
(One would have to assumer here, that they noticed.)
• Hogan’s response: “Herein lies the problem. Why go to legal instead of your peers? There may have been another council member who wants to serve on Public Safety.” He suggested that council members will “all pay a price in credibility.”
(En garde. I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about the issue unless someone brought it to our attention. Oh. They did.)
• Cleland fired back with: “Give me a break, the new council member will chair next month. I am very disappointed in your comments mayor.”
(Parry. Did anyone mention up to this point that Cleland and Hogan were married several years ago while both served on council? Just sayin’)
• (Touche. Hogan wasn’t about to let that slide. He wrote: “Is the next meeting (Oct.) 10th? If so, the new member won’t be chairing. Will you? And if not, why not? You’ve already set the precedent.”
(’nuff said? Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the email exchange in our possession. Feel free to send more. We have no doubt they’ll get the issue squared away, just after they get all the sand back in the box)