Councilperson and mayor spar on legalities

 

With Neal D. Straus unavailable to attend to field questions from the Dillon City Council that has twice refused to consent to his appointment by Mayor Mike Klakken to replace City Treasurer Ty Cobb, last Wednesday’s City Council meeting proceeded cordially and productively (see story on Page A-3) for its first three quarters of an hour.

But at around the 45-minute mark, City Councilperson Swede Troedsson raised a new controversy surrounding another Klakken appointment, one the Council approved earlier this month.

During the report of the Judiciary Committee, on which he serves, Troedsson questioned Klakken’s legal justification for his firing of former City Attorney Duke Gilbert.

Klakken’s Feb. 5 firing of Gilbert for insubordination paved the way for the Council’s unanimous consent that evening to the appointment of new City Attorney Jim Dolan, whom the City Council had previously rejected.

Troedsson asked how Klakken found the city ordinance stating that the mayor needs approval of three-quarters of the City Council to fire the city attorney could be in conflict of the city charter, which Klakken said confirms his authority to dismiss Gilbert without Council approval.

“Could you enlighten us as to what your interpretation is, or what you feel is the conflict between those two documents?” Troedsson asked the mayor.

Klakken asked Troedsson to pass him a copy of a book on the table in front of him containing the city charter, and then read from the charter’s section 1.00.025 (Departments – Administration) that designated the fire chief, police chief, library director, and director of operations as department heads.

The mayor then cited a passage from section 2.04.050 (Administrative) authorizing the mayor to appoint and remove, with the consent of the Council, all department heads.

“Now, as we just went over before,” said Klakken to Troedsson, “the city attorney is not a department head; he is a city officer.

Klakken then returned to the charter. “And then it says after that: ‘the mayor may appoint and remove all other employees in consultation with the appropriate department head.’

“The city attorney directly reports to the mayor,” continued Klakken, “so, the mayor doesn’t have to have consent of the Council. That’s the charter—that comes directly from the charter.”

Troedsson conveyed his belief that ordinances of the city can be more restrictive than the city charter, saying again that the city ordinances require the mayor to gain approval of two-thirds of the City Council to fire the city attorney.

“But the ordinance is in conflict with the charter, and the charter is our constitution, and that constitution says, ‘I don’t need your approval.’ Now, you’re putting it on to me that I need your approval,” responded Klakken.

“Yes,” said Troedsson.

“No, you can’t do that—it’s in violation of the charter,” replied Klakken.

“That’s your interpretation,” answered Troedsson.

“It’s in violation of the charter—so, now you know,” concluded Klakken. “Here’s your book back.”