Wassall ends final Dillon City Council meeting in style

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
No public, plenty of public comment

Members of city government convene before an empty public seating area at last week’s Dillon City Council meeting, which ended with a curious session of public comment. M.P. Regan photo

During his time on the Dillon City Council, set to end today, Rich Wassall inspired numerous, lengthy discussions at city meetings that explored some issues to depths and widths that others may not have been aware even existed.

His final debate at a city council meeting as a city council member last week proved another such fantastic voyage.

And a journey other city officials questioned Wassall’s right to initiate or even participate in—suggestions he and at least one other councilperson found fantastical.

During the public comment period at the end of last Wednesday’s city council meeting, Wassall clashed with the mayor and city attorney and city council president on what could be commented upon during that meeting’s public comment period—and who exactly qualified as a member of the “public” and a potential commentor.

“Mr. Wassall,” said City Council President Don Hand near the end of “F. Public Comment On Items of Significant Public Interest Not On the Agenda and Within the Jurisdiction of The City” on the meeting’s agenda.

“In regards to that, first word on Item F is “Public”—you are not ‘Public’; you are a seated member of this commission. You do not have a place to discuss that,” insisted Hand after Wassall attempted to continue discussing potential uses of federal funds that could be coming to the city.

“I think that is a legal matter that’s already been decided and I am public,” responded Wassall, who earlier this month sent the city a letter indicating he would resign from city council, effective March 24.

“No, you’re not. Not yet—not until the 24th,” said Hand.

“No. City Council members are free to put anything in Item F that they feel is appropriate to be added, and they do so as members of the public,” asserted Wassall.

“No, they don’t,” interjected Mayor Mike Klakken, who has often clashed with Wassall on matters of proper procedure at city meetings since Wassall became a member of city council in the fall of 2019.

“They really don’t. You guys are in a special class,” added Klakken.

“Well, transparency is everything, Mr. Mayor, and we’ve got a million bucks coming to the city,” responded Wassall, referring the possibility of approximately a million dollars in funds coming to the city through the state and going toward repairs on City Hall.

“And you’re assigning it to a committee where it’s gonna be plugged into the City Hall. And I don’t think that’s appropriate,” said Wassall.

“I’m getting a little nervous talking, because this is not on the agenda. It’s on tomorrow’s agenda,” said Klakken, referring to the agenda of the meeting the council’s City Hall Committee set for the next day.

“It’s not on this agenda,” said Klakken.

“We’re in public comment, so it’s open season,” asserted Wassall.

“No, it’s limited on ‘open season.’ It’s in front of the committee. You have the agendas, what you’ve been reading. So, it is not under public comment. It is under an agenda item in the City Hall [Committee], and we’ll talk fully about all of that then. But now, I’m really nervous about talking about it,” said Klakken.

“Well, the city’s allocation under the federal program is not specifically tied to City Hall. It’s a city-funded mechanism that we can use for whatever we determine to use it for—that we’re entitled to use it under the terms of the program. Correct?” asked Wassall.

“That is correct,” agreed Klakken.

“So, simply by assigning it to committee doesn’t take it out of discussion in city council under public comment,” said Wassall during the meeting at which the only member of the public in attendance was the reporter from the Dillon Tribune.

“Yes, it does. Public comment is only on items…that are in the jurisdiction of the city but not on the agenda. This is on tomorrow meeting’s, it’s on there,” said Klakken.

“It’s not at this time that we discuss this,” insisted Klakken.

“Well, I’m not sure of why you’re nervous, but let me read you what it says on the agenda— ‘Public Comment On Items of

Significant Public Interest Not On the Agenda and Within the Jurisdiction of the City.’ So, I would ask the city attorney, ‘not on the agenda’—doesn’t that refer to this agenda that’s before the city council, not future agendas before committees?” wondered Wassall.

“The item, sir, is not on tonight’s agenda and it does involve the question of the expenditure of money, so I don’t believe the discussion should continue,” said City Attorney Jim Dolan.

“That’s crazy,” said Councilperson Mary Jo O’Rourke.