Mohave County officials push forward on campaign promises
The new, expanded Mohave County Board of Supervisors immediately started dismantling some of the policies put in by the former board after being sworn in Wednesday morning.
The issue that garnered the most applause in the crowded auditorium was the Board's decision to have a call to the public added to the beginning of the Board's regular agendas.
The Board of Supervisors has not had a call to the public on its agenda for many years.
"Please allow us our First Amendment right to speak at meetings," said Golden Valley resident Jim Kanelos.
"We haven't had a call to the public for too long. There are too many people who wanted to bring something before the Board but couldn't," said another Golden Valley resident, Fredrick Williams.
District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson, who attended the Board meeting but did not attend the swearing-in ceremony for new and re-elected officials, claimed the Board never had a call to the public - at least not for the 15 or more years he has served on the Board.
The whole purpose of the call to the public is to allow people to bring items that are not on the Board's agenda to the Board's attention, said Golden Valley resident Steven Robinson.
Johnson protested, saying residents have numerous ways to reach their elected officials and make their concerns known.
"I consider this a business meeting. We're conducting the business of the county. I don't believe a call to the public is necessary," he said.
The Board expanded from three members to five members after the 2010 Census determined that the county had more than 175,000 people. The new Board members are: District 2 Hildy Angius, District 4 Joy Brotherton and District 5 Steven Moss. District 1 Supervisor Gary Watson and District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson were re-elected last year.
The Board got another round of applause when it ordered staff to revise the ordinance governing the county manager's position.
Last year, former County Manager Ron Walker notified the previous Board that he would not renew his contract. The county hired him in 2001. His contract ended on Dec. 31.
His policies and dismissive attitude toward members of the public and the Board over the last four years tarnished the county's reputation in the eyes of many people.
Robinson suggested repealing the ordinance and turning the position into more of an administrative office similar to other Arizona counties.
"I agree with some of the comments made by the public. The ordinance as it is currently drafted needs to be revised," said District 5 Supervisor Steven Moss.
He pointed out several flaws with the ordinance, including the fact that the county manager "may" serve at the pleasure of the Board, that a special meeting is required to dismiss or discipline the county manager and that supervisors have to talk to the county manager before speaking about an issue with any county employee.
District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson explained that the special meeting requirement was added to the ordinance in order to allow the Board to move swiftly and allow the county manager to address the full Board.
Moss asked County Attorney Bill Ekstrom if the special meeting requirement was necessary.
Ekstrom said there was no rule stating the Board had to hold a special meeting.
It could dismiss the county manager by putting the issue on the agenda of a regular meeting if it wanted.
Next on the Board's list was approving Deputy County Manager of Development Services and Public Works Mike Hendrix as an interim county manager until it can find a replacement.
Walker left for vacation in mid-October in order to use up some of the paid time off hours he had accumulated throughout the year.
In the interim, the four deputy county managers have been taking turns filling his shoes.
District 1 Supervisor Gary Watson recommended having Hendrix serve as interim county manager for the next six months while the county looks for a new county manager.
If the county doesn't find someone by the end of the six months, then the Board could continue Hendrix's term.
Johnson protested, saying the Board shouldn't move forward without interviewing people, looking at résumés or writing up a contract.
He recommended staying with the current rotation of deputy county managers.
The Board also asked staff to study the feasibility of removing the four deputy county manager positions and report back to the Board in February.
The previous Board created the four positions in 2009 in an effort to streamline the county's departments and cut costs.
"This was sold to us as a cost savings. I think you would find that most of us don't believe that. We need to get back to where the county was with one county manager," said Mohave Valley resident Roy Hagemyer.
Johnson recommended waiting until the new county manager was hired to discuss the situation.
"I think this is something we can do regardless of who we bring in as county manager. I don't think we have to wait," said District 2 Supervisor Hildy Angius.
The Board also ordered staff to study the risks of removing the security measures that were added to the county administration building and allowing weapons in the building.
Members also discussed removing the county's dress code and leaving the county public information director's position unfilled until the end of the fiscal year in June.