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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


For the week of September 11 - 17, 2002

News

Testy mayor 
loses to council

Sparks fly late in evening meeting


By PAT MURPHY
Express Staff Writer

Frayed relationships between Ketchumís mayor and members of the city council erupted into the open during last weekís council when wrangling over two issues left Mayor Ed Simon standing virtually alone against his four council colleagues.

At one point during the night, the testy mayor blurted in frustration to his colleagues, "Youíre ambushing me."

Ed Simon, Ketchum mayor

By the time sparks flew late in the evening, the audience had been reduced to four city hall staff members and three news reporters. No members of the public were there to catch what one reporter wryly cracked was "saving the best for last."

In the end, the mayor lost badly on both issues.

The nightís clashes seem to be fallout from the mayorís ill-fated and costly attempt to name the assistant police chief over Chief Cal Nevlandís objections. To settle the dispute, the council agreed to pay $65,000 in damages to the Blaine County deputy sheriff whom Simon had picked, but who then withdrew when the controversy erupted.

The first squabble at the council meeting began over the mayorís proposal to include on the Nov. 5 election ballot an advisory question, asking Ketchum residents whether they preferred electing council members by seats or citywide.

Then, sharp words were exchanged later over the mayorís decision to exclude other council members from sitting in on interviews with two applicants for the vacant planning and zoning administratorís post.

The mayor barely had taken a breath after calling for a vote to place the advisory question on the Nov. 5 ballot when Councilwoman Chris Potters expressed sharp opposition to the ballot question, asking, "Why are we doing it now? We have more important things to do. Weíve had so much discord," a veiled reference to the mayorís disputed effort to name the police departmentís assistant chief.

Councilman Randy Hall quickly leaped in, saying "This is a paralyzing issue."

Swiveling back and forth in his chair between facing Potters and Hall, the mayor shot back, "This is important to a lot of people."

Then Councilman Baird Gourlay said there were other alternatives that havenít been considered, such as "Instant Runoff Voting" that allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

Finally, acting almost as peacemaker, Councilman Maurice Charlat suggested that the mechanics of future Ketchum city elections required more study.

To which City Administrator Ron LaBlanc said there would be other elections next year when the advisory question could be added to the ballot.

The council voted in effect to not include the advisory question on the November election ballot.

With calm restored and after dispensing with other agenda items, Mayor Simon ignited another council outburst when he announced he and the city administrator and Councilman Gourlay would interview two candidates for the cityís planning and zoning administrator job on Sept. 9.

When council members muttered in surprise, Simon said, "The (interview) process has been set," thereby attempting to end any criticism or discussion.

But Councilwoman Potters would have none of that. "I see us as a team. Why not add other councilmen (to the interview)? Iím surprised (the mayor has excluded council members)."

Thereafter the mayor and council members engaged in sharp exchanges, herewith excerpted:

Mayor Simon: "Iím even surprised you brought this up."

Councilman Hall: "Iím in the dark. I canít give confirmation on these applicants if Iím out of the loop. Are two applicants enough?"

Simon: "No one has hidden anything. Youíre ambushing me tonight."

Potters: "I didnít even know you were interviewing. It would be common courtesy to invite us in."

Simon, agitated: "The process has been set."

Hall: "Iím the one who feels ambushed."

Councilman Charlat: "Itís the mayorís prerogative to interview candidates. If the council doesnít have enough information about the candidates, thatís a flaw in the system."

Simon: "Iím not opposed nor have I attempted to remove the council (from the interviews)."

Potters: "It would be nice to know the team members (city staffers) we work with. It would be polite to bring in our judgment."

`Charlat: "Iím looking for middle ground. No body gets hurt (if council member sit in interviews as observers)."

Simon: "I want to think about it. I feel disrupted (by others sitting in on the interview)."

Hall: "Why wouldnít you want us involved?"

The issue was closed when Simon waved off any further discussion, and his plans seemed firm at the time for the interviews to be conducted.

But later, without any public explanation, the interviews of the two candidates were cancelled.

According to one city hall source, the search for a new planning and zoning administrator now will be expanded and extended several months to increase the pool of candidates, a clear victory for Councilman Hallís question about a larger pool from which to make a selection.

Attempts to reach Mayor Simon Tuesday were unsuccessful.

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.