Friday, October 31, 2014

Sun Valley leaders clash over mayoral appointee

Council set to consider Jake Provonsha on Nov. 6


By AMY BUSEK
Express Staff Writer

Jake Provonsha

    Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commissioner Jake Provonsha will come up for consideration for the second time Thursday, Nov. 6, to fill a vacant spot on the Sun Valley City Council. Councilman Franz Suhadolnik tendered his resignation effective Sept. 30 with more than a year remaining in his term, leaving the City Council with only three elected members.
    Provonsha was nominated by Mayor Dewayne Briscoe at an Oct. 2 council meeting, but Councilors Michelle Griffith and Peter Hendricks questioned Briscoe’s selection process, so the matter was tabled. Briscoe indicated to the Idaho Mountain Express that he deferred talks on an update to the Sun Valley Comprehensive Plan until a fourth council member comes onboard. He cited the Association of Idaho Cities manual on mayor and council responsibilities to support his decision.
    Given Provonsha’s current status as a P&Z commissioner, Griffith said the “overlapping of appointments are inappropriate.” Griffith said she was prepared to vote “no” on Provonsha at the Oct. 2 meeting based on past council discussions in which the possibility of critiques like favoritism could render the city vulnerable. She didn’t do so because Briscoe postponed a vote on the matter after council members’ opinions were made known.
    Idaho law states that council vacancies must be filled by a mayor with the consent of the governing council. How candidates are vetted and recruited is left up to the mayor, according to Idaho Code 50-704.
    Should the council majority shoot down Provonsha’s appointment for a second time, Briscoe said statewide law dictates he select another candidate to nominate at a Dec. 4 meeting.
 “The council will again have a month, (to hear from the public, etc.) and a vote will be taken at the January regular meeting,” Briscoe said in an email.
Provonsha moved to the Wood River Valley in the 1970s and served on the Ketchum Fire Department as an EMT/firefighter. He has been heavily involved in his local homeowners association and city government as a Planning and Zoning Commission member for Ketchum and Sun Valley.
    Council President Keith Saks recommended Provonsha to Briscoe back in September, he said. He knows Provonsha in a professional context, having served together as Planning and Zoning commissioners for a year and a half, Saks said.  
    “I think it’s quite important that the council gets back to full strength,” Saks said. “Largely because if you have a three-person council, any two people will control the vote.”    
    Saks said blocking Provonsha’s nomination at the Oct. 2 council meeting was done for political, not altruistic, reasons.
    “Any vote against Jake would not be in the best interest of this city,” he said, adding that Provonsha had no political affiliations that he knows of and is a “person of principle and convictions.”
    Griffith said despite the fact that she and Suhadolnik seemed to be at opposing ends of the political spectrum, they agreed on the subject of overlapping appointments.
    In 2012, when council members were to confirm nominees for the Comprehensive Plan Committee, Griffith said she, Suhadolnik and then-Council President Bob Youngman did not confirm Provonsha, then-Councilman Nils Ribi and Briscoe as committee members because it too set the stage for conflicts of interest.
    “Not only has [Provonsha] weighed in on the Comprehensive Plan, he has participated in many P&Z decisions, any one of which could come before the council down the road,” Griffith said. “Further, the mayor has already appointed [him] to the P&Z. If he now appoints him to the council, the city is exposed to accusations of ‘good old boy, back room’ decision making unnecessarily.”
Griffith asserted that she does not mean to suggest ulterior motive—but the precedent for fair and transparent government will come into question.
“The potential accusations of favoritism [and] inappropriate influence cannot be refuted,” she said. “We have roughly 1,000 registered voters—we need to cast the net a bit wider.”
    Hendricks did not respond to requests for comment.




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