Administrator, attorney given contracts
City Administrator John Roche and city Attorney Dale Patton will be receiving two year contracts to remain in their current positions. The Winslow City Council approved a contract for Roche 5-2 and 6-1 for Patton.
The two city employees did not receive overwhelming support from the community. The council approved the contracts in April, but the documents were not signed right away due to protests by residents.
Council members received two written requests with a combined 205 signatures asking that the contracts not be signed.
In their requests, the residents accuse Roche of “misrepresentation, mismanagement, excessive spending, attempts to retaliate and censor the community.”
Discussion about the contracts was originally placed on the council’s agenda as an executive session for Tuesday’s meeting. However, the council and mayor opened the items up to the public.
Mayor Jim Boles said that the council decided to include the public in discussions to prove that they were not hiding anything.
However, after a two-hour council meeting on Tuesday, the votes on the consideration of the citizen’s requests and the reaffirmation of the contracts took place after a three-hour open meeting on Wednesday.
One of those residents who spoke in the reconvened meeting was Marie LaMar. Her concern was that the cost of the Renaissance on Route 66 project was exceeding what she said she was told it would be. She quoted from the minutes from previous council meetings in which it approved a budget for construction costs not to exceed $1 million.
“And that word ‘construction costs’ was not followed by ‘and there will be other costs,’” she said. “I think that’s misrepresentation and I think it is mismanagement.”
In the vote for Roche, Councilwoman Dee Rodriguez and Councilwoman Judy Howell voted no.
“I have other issues with John. I have none with Dale,” Rodriguez said.
Howell also voted no for the contract for Patton.
“For Mr. Patton, I believe the city truly needs a full-time city attorney with an office at city hall, which is why I voted no for that,” she said. “I have a real problem with someone getting paid a full-time salary, benefits and retirement like a full-time worker and only working part-time. I don’t think that’s fair to the other employees.”
Howell added that she believes the group opposing the contract did not get “a fair shake.”
“They presented the council with 23 pages of documentation to support their concerns,” she said. “And it was a real eye opener because I think they had a really good case. I think they should have been able to get up there and speak and give their documentation instead of being limited to questioning two people who were not listed in the 23 pages.
“Had they been able to speak freely, and address every concern I think the outcome could have been different.”
Roche was not present at the meeting Wednesday due to a previous commitment out of town.
“I extend my gratitude for the City Council for granting me a two-year contract,” he said. “It demonstrates to me that they have faith in my past experience and what I propose to do in the next couple years.”
Roche signed the contract Thursday. He has served as City Administrator since 2000 but started in 1995 as the Development Services Director and also serves as Economic Development Director for Winslow.
Patton has served as city attorney since 1989. He was not available to comment as of press time.
Boles voted for the contracts but added that he didn’t think contracts should be necessary.
“Under an ideal situation, at-will employees work because they want to be there and they work because the people for whom they work want them to be there,” he said.
“They are out front because they are carrying out the policies and wishes of council. When they do that, obviously, there are times that they go against the wishes of the minority opinion of the community. Consequently, they need to have the security that they have the backing of council.”
Boles, Rodriguez and Howell did agree that these contracts have set a precedent for the people who will eventually replace Roche and Patton.