The Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday voted to delay locking down plans for a strategic planning session. It also delayed approving a proposed code of conduct. They did, however, vote to approve the next step in finding the borough’s next police chief and manager.
Sometimes, agendas can be deceiving. Tuesday’s was light, with no new business, no public hearings, and no ordinances or resolutions to vote on. But the meeting stretched on for two hours, and it got heated more than once.
It started with interim manager Brad Ryan suggesting the assembly revisit the idea of a one-day strategic planning session. At a January meeting, the assembly approved entering into a $4,000 contract with a Juneau company for a goal-setting meeting. But the decision was reversed on Tuesday. Assemblywoman Margaret Friedenauer brought the idea forward last month. The objective of a goal-setting session was to map out priorities for the lobbyist and upcoming budget talks. Concerns were raised from some assembly members about the cost of hiring an outside firm, versus finding a qualified local to lead the session for less or no money. Here’s Assemblyman George Campbell, who attended the meeting by phone along with Assemblyman Tresham Gregg. Both said they were feeling ill.
“The money we’re talking about it kind of ridiculous for what we’re really looking for – a one-day session,” Campbell said. “My suggestion is we do an RFP for an actual full five-year plan, which is going to be multiple sessions.”
Campbell suggested, in the meantime, hiring someone local to guide the assembly in creating a 12-month plan. He added that sending it to committee is delaying the process beyond its usefulness.
A while later, Friedenauer acknowledged that while she appreciated the discussion, the topic of strategic planning has been hanging around for a while.
“I’m thrilled that everybody’s on board finally with such an idea,” she said. “I first brought this up December 29 and was talking about it even before then. Nobody else has brought any ideas forward. I’ve heard Ms. Lapham be very supportive and Mr. Case be very supportive of the ideas and I appreciate them for their support. But at this point, if any assembly member would like to make a different suggestion, vote it down and come up with something else.”
The assembly reversed its decision to go forward with hiring the Juneau firm, and instead voted to refer the matter of Requests for Proposals to the Government Affairs and Services Committee on March 3.
The assembly then tackled a discussion on a proposed assembly code of conduct introduced by assembly members Ron Jackson and Friedenauer. According to the three-page document, the code aims to “improve the conduct, efficiency and decorum at borough public meetings.”
For example, the code reads that when a member of public is speaking at a public meeting, “no signs of partiality, prejudice or disrespect should be evident on the part of individual members toward an individual participating in a public forum.” It also states that assembly members should conduct themselves in professional manner, be well-prepared for meetings, make decisions based on merit, and have the borough’s best interest in mind over personal gain.
And while most assembly members said they respected the effort, the code needs to be fleshed out a little.
Assemblyman Mike Case suggested the code be whittled down to one page instead of three. Assemblywoman Diana Lapham said a lot of what was written was already scattered over 27 or so pages in the Haines Borough Code, and asked about merging the two. Campbell said dwelling on a code of conduct was not a wise use of the assembly’s time.
“We don’t need to have a whole bunch of meetings discussing this and disseminating this. I think what we need to do is figure out how we’re going fund out sewer treatment plant, our Lutak Dock and our harbor project and we’re going to get those done, instead of spending all our time going back and forth like this in meetings.”
Like the strategic planning recommendation, the proposed code of conduct was also sent to the GAS committee for further review. Shortly after Campbell dismissed the idea of a revised code of conduct, Mayor Jan Hill gave him the gavel as he tried to argue a point. The disagreement boiled over during an assembly dialogue on whether to approve a salary range and timeline for the hiring of a new police chief and borough manager. Campbell insisted that the minimum qualifications for the positions were nowhere to be found. Here’s the interaction between Campbell and Mayor Hill.
“Please explain to me how they need a set of numbers and how they’re going to advertise without being able to say what the minimum qualifications are,” Campbell said.
“We have a job description that outlines the qualifications, Mr. Campbell,” Hill responded.
“And who approved that?”
Hill: “Those were approved years ago. We have the same qualifications for the same job.”
Hill: “Yes, sir!”
The assembly voted 4-2 to approve the salary range of $95,000 – $120,000 annually for the manager and $75,000 – $95,000 for the chief, as well as a timeline which caps off with the new officials starting in June. Campbell and Gregg opposed the motion.
The next Haines Borough Assembly meeting is March 8. Starting with the next meeting, full audio of borough assembly meetings will be available at khns.org.