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Wednesday, March 17, 2004


‘There are problems
at City Hall’

Ketchum Council president calls for changes

"…through (the Ketchum City Council’s) mediation process, it’s my opinion that we have a toxic work environment, and are taking aggressive steps to change that dynamic."

— RANDY HALL, Ketchum City Council president

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum City Council President Randy Hall last week said he believes there are problems at City Hall that are affecting how government affairs are handled.

In an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express Friday, March 12, Hall said he is confident the city can succeed in addressing a long list of important issues it faces but alleged that Mayor Ed Simon has had a role in disrupting progress.

"I can tell already that this council is going to be about action and getting work done," he said. "I think it is going to be constructive."

However, Hall said he has become deeply frustrated by recent developments in confidential mediation meetings council members and Simon have been participating in since late 2003.

In his comments, Hall said the obvious tension in recent months between he and Simon has escalated, in part because Simon violated the confidential terms of the mediation meetings.

"Politics is a messy business, and people who are in politics aren’t always going to get along," Hall said. "My only priority is to find what’s best for the people of Ketchum.

"That said, there are problems at City Hall. We recently lost yet another valuable employee. And, through our mediation process, it’s my opinion that we have a toxic work environment, and are taking aggressive steps to change that dynamic.

"Intelligent, talented people don’t work in toxic work environments. We are going to continue to lose good people unless the council and mayor step up and address the problems."

During the mediation proceedings—which the city hired specialist Bob Werth to conduct—privileged information was used by Simon to influence city policy, Hall said.

"The mediation process was successful at identifying key problem areas such as communication and personnel issues. However, the wheels came off when Mayor Simon breached the mediation process by sharing privileged information with ex-councilman Maurice Charlat.

"The process was further violated when Mr. Charlat took that confidential information and shared it with a city employee, a Ketchum City Council person and the mediator himself with the sole purpose of influencing the process and the outcome of what was supposed to be a confidential personnel matter."

Hall said he could not discuss the details of the matter because of confidentiality provisions.

For his part, Simon this week said he "did not have time to engage in personality conflicts" and likewise could not discuss the matter in detail.

"Obviously, Randy and I don’t have the best relationship and I try to avoid making it worse," Simon said.

Hall said he might remove himself from the mediation meetings as a result of the incident.

Hall last week also expressed frustration about comments Simon made to the Express last month regarding the resignation of City Attorney Margaret Simms, who will officially leave her post Friday. Simon said Simms had been "invaluable" to the city.

The council president said Simon threatened to sue the city to have Simms removed prior to his taking office in 2002.

"The only reason he kept Margaret there is because the law told him he had to."

As for the mounting list of challenging issues facing the city, Hall said he believes that city staff and the City Council are capable of methodically tackling them one by one.

"It’s an exciting time," he said.

Hall noted that local option tax revenues are climbing and the city has quelled concerns raised last year that it was mishandling its finances.

"All that drama last year was predicated on misinformation," he said. "The misinformation, I think, was a result of the transition between (City Administrator) Ron LeBlanc and (former City Administrator) Jim Jaquet."

Hall said his goals for the city in coming years include:

  • Establishing an appropriate policy for the city to be compensated for development impacts.

  • Initiating a review of the city’s 2003 salary-structure package, which he believes costs the city too much money.

  • Developing a capital-improvement plan.

  • Drafting a master plan to develop a new city hall in its existing site.

Hall said the greatest single issue facing Ketchum is "somewhere between $250 million and $300 million of development" that is likely to be proposed in the next few years.

"The cornerstone of that is Sun Valley Company’s plans," he said, noting that the company has designed a massive development for the River Run area west of Ketchum.

Developments are also planned for Warm Springs Ranch, the Bald Mountain Lodge site and the Simplot Lot.

"We need to look at the big picture," Hall said. "We need the A-Team out."


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