Winslow Administrator and Attorney withdraw their efforts

* Editor's note: The Winslow City Administrator sent this letter to the Winslow Mail on Thurs., May 24, that deals with the subject of the story below. Effective immediately I am withdrawing my reque

Three City Council members (Affeldt, Bumpus and Howell) protested against what they believed was an attempt by (Soehner, Lugo, Cake and Boyd) to rush contract negotiations through for the city administrator and city attorney, and to hide it from public view.

Contentious discussion took place in public view between two executive sessions in one night, the second of which, Affeldt and Howell refused to participate in out of anger over the way things were happening. The rest of Council came out and Lugo proposed that they approve a new contract for City Administrator Jim Ferguson.

Howell asked how much it was for and Lugo said, "do we even need to say that?"

Mayor Affeldt said to Lugo that if she was going to propose a vote it would have to be made public. According to Lugo then it was determined that they decided to give Ferguson a $150,000 per year contract for five years even though he already has a contract for $108,000 per year with almost two years left on his current contract. Nothing was said publicly about the deputy administrator position, though that was half the reason Soehner called for two executive sessions to discuss those contracts that night.

"I don't know how we can give all city employees a 2.7 percent raise, and the city administrator a 40 percent raise," said Mayor Affeldt. "It doesn't make sense to me ­ to pay him so far out of proportion for anything other cities the size of Winslow are doing." Howell agreed.

Affeldt asked Council to postpone this decision about administrative raises to give the public more time to be made aware of it. He also asked it be made public about what the contracts and salaries are for other city administrators in Arizona, which was gathered by the Sherri Lancaster, city of Winslow human resources director.

"I do not agree with that, I think we ought to just finish up with what we are working on tonight," Soehner said.

"The purpose of the executive sessions and discussion and decision to postpone is to get out the information on other city contracts and allow Council time to review them," Affeldt said. "We clearly have not had time to review it now and means there was no point in gathering that information in the first place."

"My argument is that not all of us on Council ever wanted that extra information," Soehner said.

This "extra information" has always been public information, but here are some caparisons.

The following is a '05 list of Arizona cities, their population, sales tax income and if they have a deputy administrator and what they pay their city administrator:

When asked after the meeting about what could be driving this effort to increase administrative salaries, Affeldt said it is Ferguson and Patton who are driving it and that they drafted their salary increase proposals and gave them to Soehner and Lugo to advocate for.

Back at the meeting, Bumpus' last, she asked Ferguson and Patton for clarification on an important question.

"I just want to offer you and opportunity to clarify what the deputy administration position entails," Bumpus said. "Many from the public are asking."

She referred to when she Council members Judy Howell and Robin Boyd met with City Ferguson and Lancaster over a month ago to settle on the qualifications for a new deputy administrator that would require a degree in public administration with 5 years experience. No one answered her.

These qualifications were thrown out in the May 8 meeting when Council members Harold Soehner, Stephanie Lugo, Peter Cake and Robin Boyd voted to throw out any administrative education and experience by going with contract negotiations. This allows City Attorney Dale Patton to be qualified for the job since it would be up to Council vote and Soehner, Lugo, Cake and Boyd have enough votes to approve him and give him the salary he asks for.

During the second executive session called by Soehner in reference to ARS 38-431 to discuss the position of deputy administrator and city administrator, City Attorney Patton, who normally advises Council in executive sessions, stayed outside of these executive sessions since he was the subject of discussion.

Affeldt and Howell stayed outside of the executive session because they did not want to be a part of what looked to be an inevitable decision. Bumpus agreed with them, but went in anyway. Soon Ferguson came out to the public and asked Patton to come into the executive session to advise as the city attorney. Patton went in at 11:25 p.m.

This is precisely the concern Bumpus, Affeldt and Howell had with the city attorney becoming a deputy administrator, which would Patton control of the second and third most powerful positions in the city government.

Andrea Asquer from the Arizona Attorney General's Office said the Attorney General's Office does not get involved with issues at a city level and they will not advise if there is a conflict of interest for the city attorney to be the deputy administrator. She said this is City Council decision.

Near the end of the meeting, Howell asked that they contact an independent lawyer outside of Winslow to advice them on the situation.

In the end, Lugo motioned to approve the contract for Ferguson; Soehner seconded. The rest of Council voted no. Boyd then moved that they push a decision back until the next Council meeting on June 12.

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