Tempers flare in Moroni City council meeting

 

By Suzanne Dean

Publisher

5-8-2018

 

MORONI—The Moroni City Council erupted into exchanges that were just short of a shouting match at a meeting last Thursday, May 3.

On one side were Mayor Paul Bailey and Councilman Jed Demill, who argued that Bailey is raising money, putting in improvements and keeping his campaign promise to clean up the town.

On the other side were Councilmen Justin Morley and Orson Cook, who said the mayor was spearheading projects and spending money without running the actions through the council. They maintained council approval of such activities and spending is required by city ordinance.

The most heated exchanges were between Bailey, who is 46, and Morley, who is 25. At one point, the mayor said, “You’re all wound up. You need counseling, Justin.”

To which Morley replied, “Oh, Paul, you’re an ass.”

The matter bringing the conflict into focus was a resolution, proposed by Morley, to revise a city purchasing policy. The previous policy said no employee could obligate the city for more than $150 without approval either of a department head or the council member who oversaw the department.

The new draft said any expenditure by over $150 by an employee, including the mayor, would require prior approval of the majority of the council. It also said no credit cards could be issued to city employees without council approval.

Following the vehement debate, Councilman Fred Atkinson proposed an amendment to increase the limit to $200. The amendment was accepted.

The council then passed the revised policy, including the restriction on credit cards, 4-1, with all council members voting for the changes except Bailey’s apparent ally, Demill.

The impact of the changed seemed a little unclear. It appeared department heads could still approve expenditures exceeding $200 for work within their budgets.

The city recorder would continue to have authority to hand out three official city credit cards for employee use for specific purchases. The credit cards have limits of $5,000. And it appeared city credit cards already issued to individuals, including to the mayor and police chief, would remain in force. Only issuances of new cards would require council approval.

During debate, Bailey characterized the resolution as an impediment on his ability to get things done.

“I don’t have time to call three council members every time I gotta buy something for over $150,” the mayor said.

“We don’t pack gold around with us to buy things, guys. You gotta have credit cards. I don’t have time to come down here and have Carol (referring to Carol Haskins, the city recorder) order everything for me and call their council members every time I have to buy something.”

But Bailey went further. He said he was getting things done, nearly all of it with donated funds, while Morley and other council members were doing little to no volunteer work for the city. That, the mayor said, was making Morley jealous.

Addressing Morley, he said, “You’re mad because you’re jealous about what’s been going on the last four months.”

“He’s not jealous,” Cook said. A few minutes later, Cook elaborated. “We want some transparency and (to) know what people (are) doing, whether it’s donated money or whether it’s budgeted money. So when people ask what’s happening, we’ll have an explanation.”

The debate over the spending policy seemed to reflect ambiguity about the role of the mayor as chief executive of the city and the roles of council members as the legislative and oversight branch of city government.

Earlier in the meeting, Morley asked the mayor about a new sign that had cropped up in the cemetery.

Bailey said he had raised $1,000 from two local businesses to put in the new sign, which consists of a horizontal rock wall and lettering.

Morley, who was appointed by the mayor to oversee parks and the cemetery, told Bailey to run all changes in the cemetery through him from now on.

During the spending resolution debate, Morley brought up the sign again. “The other sign was donated by an Eagle Scout project not more than 10 years ago. What was wrong with the current sign?

“It’s broken,” Bailey said. “It’s was falling apart. It’s down at the city yard.”

At another point, Morley asked Bailey, “What department are you over, Paul?”

“Every department,” the mayor said.

“Who’s over parks,” Morley asked.

“You want to be mayor,” Bailey responded.

In an interview following the council meeting, Bailey said he used grants and donations to plant trees, shrubs and bushes at the Moroni Opera House; personally helped city crews trim trees at the cemetery; arranged for a local painter to volunteer to paint the city council chambers with the city paying for paint; and helped arrange for an anonymous donor to purchase and donate a vacant lot on 400 East and Main Street, near the east entrance to town, and hoped to get the lot beautified.