Mayor Dan Beaver and Town Manager Lori Wedemeyer have both said they want new policies and procedures put in place following the controversy over Wedemeyer purchasing gift cards for Town employees and the settlement over paying the taxes on those gift cards.
First, I want to thank Corina Crispin for bringing this matter to light. Second, as for new policies and procedures, I want to say, it’s about time!
Arizona’s Constitution grew out of the Progressive movement of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. One of the principles of this movement was that government should be open and responsible to the people. That’s why Arizona allows for recalls of elected officials. The presumption of the state’s open meeting law and public records law is that everything should be open to the public, and it’s up to the government entity to show why it shouldn’t be.
The way this whole business was handled looks and smells fishy. If something looks and smells fishy, most people will think it is fishy.
The purchase of the gift cards should have been brought before the Council, even if it was covered in the budget. Once there was a problem discovered with this, it should have been the subject of a work session, just so everyone would know what’s going on. The settlement, in which the Town gave Wedemeyer a check for $11,000 to cover the tax liability, should definitely have gone before the Council. It exceeded the $5,000 threshold for expenses that needed to be approved by the Council.
As it was, they looked like they were trying to hide something. It must be stated the Attorney General’s Office investigated this matter and said found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Still, it smells fishy.
I’ll grant this was a situation that was new for just about everyone involved. However, they should have remembered the principle of Arizona’s open meeting and documents laws: always go for being as open as possible. Not only does this help avoid legal trouble, it helps make public officials look like they’re honest, even when they’ve made mistakes.
Over a decade ago, the Parker Town Council was stunned to learn that Town Manager Lanny Sloan had given Economic Development Director Pete Stasiak a 40 percent pay hike over two years by granting him merit pay increases. The Council acted to prevent such abuses of merit pay increases in the future.
The Town now has set policies and procedures for merit pay increases. Everyone now knows how it works, and these policies have cut down the possibilities for abuse and favoritism.
This is what the Town needs for matter like the gift cards and paying for someone’s tax liability. If the policies and procedures are set, then everyone knows what to do. It will make Town Hall run more smoothly, and it should help clear out the fish smell.