The Grand County Council spent most of their Wednesday, Jan. 2 meeting discussing policy and procedure regarding county and special service district board appointments.
At the Dec. 18 council meeting, councilman Chris Baird made a motion to appoint Gerrish Willis to the Grand County planning commission. The council approved the motion with a 5-2 vote, with councilwoman Pat Holyoak and councilman Jim Nyland opposed.
That appointment was amended in the Jan. 2 meeting. Willis was replaced by Ryan McCandless with a 6-1 vote, with councilman Ken Ballantyne opposed.
County councilman Jim Nyland proposed the action item on the Jan. 2 agenda based on the planning commission’s votes regarding appointments. McCandless received three votes to Willis’ two votes by the planning commission. Nyland also pointed out that Willis was not interviewed by the planning commission for the appointment.
Willis spoke to the council at the meeting.
He said he received a call to schedule an interview, but was unable to attend because his daughter who lives out of town had a baby and needed his help. He said there was no follow-up and he would have been willing to interview by phone or Skype.
“I’m not sure if missing the interview is the rationale for this or not. I feel I am well qualified for this position. I’ve never been on a commission before, but I am very familiar with planning. I feel I have a lot to offer being on the committee,” Willis said.
According to Willis’ application to the planning commission, Willis has 32 years experience working with the Forest Service that included analyzing projects and land uses, as well land exchanges and purchases.
Willis also submitted a letter written by former Grand County councilman Bob Greenburg, which referenced the 1972 resolution creating the planning commission that stated “any member may be removed for non-performance of duty or for misconduct.”
Willis said that he had done neither, and should remain as appointed.
Council chair Gene Ciarus said that the motion to appoint Willis should have been reconsidered Dec. 18. Ciarus cited Robert’s Rules of Order which states that “no one session may tie the hands of a majority in another session”. He also said that because an official letter signed by the county council had not been sent to Willis regarding the appointment, that it could be rescinded.
County attorney Andrew Fitzgerald supported Ciarus’ comments.
He also said that removal of an appointment is not defined by code.
“It’s fairly vague. Any reasonable reason is a fair way to look at it,” Fitzgerald said. “It doesn’t have to be misconduct.”
Willis said in a later conversation that he was confident McCandless would serve the county well on the planning commission. He was however confused by the council’s actions.
“While baffled by this whole rigmarole, the most confusing is the county’s attorney’s legal opinion about what generally constitutes cause for dismissal,” Willis said. “While I don’t think the council’s decision had much to do about me personally, I think it sends a kind of negative message out to anyone who is thinking about volunteering to serve on county committees.”
Preceding the actions regarding rescinding Willis’ appointment and replacement with McCandless, the county council spent time discussing amendments to resolution 2806 which addresses the process of appointing board members.
Resolution 2806 originally stated in section five: “boards and commissions shall interview all qualified applicants.” The amendment was to add the words “provide best efforts” to the phrase “interview all qualified applicants.”
New county councilman Lynn Jackson said that he felt it was important that board members should be interviewed before being appointed and to remove the words “provide best efforts” from the amendments.
Jackson also pointed out how the amendments in section six gave too much leeway regarding interviews. The original resolution stated that “during the interview process the boards, commissions and committee members shall ask questions that verify an applicant’s eligibility”. The amendment removed the word “shall” and stated “members are encouraged to ask questions”.
He made a motion to accept the amendments to Resolution 2806, excluding the changes in section five and six. The council voted 7-0 to accept the amendments, but to have the resolution state that proposed board members must be interviewed and that questions must be asked regarding their eligibility.
Former councilwoman Audrey Graham discussed Resolution 2292 that defined responsibilities of the Moab Tailings Project Steering Committee.
Graham said that the tailings steering committee had an at-large position to appoint, but did not want to advertise the position or interview candidates because they already had a person in mind.
Councilman Ken Ballantyne withdrew the recommendations to appoint two new board members to the Canyonlands Health Care District. He said that the special service district board did no interviews before recommending the appointments. He said in light of the previous discussions he did not feel it was right to submit the recommendations without interviews.
The council then divvied up the different board positions for council members. During discussion, council members asked if having a council member on each of the boards and committees was a requirement.
“We should take a look at this in six months and review this,” said councilman Jackson. “Should council members sit on each board and committee?”
County administrator Ruth Dillon said that some resolutions specify a county council member on the board, but to remove that requirement “you just need to amend the resolutions.”