By Bonnie Culverhouse
Testy exchanges – mostly over personnel – marred a Minden City Council workshop where some members met to try and balance the city’s $39M budget for the next fiscal year.
District B Councilwoman Terika Walker questioned Mayor Terry Gardner’s method of hiring new directors for Economic Development and Human Resources.
“Do we have contracts for these people?” Walker asked. “I want to see where they signed that they agreed to these terms.”
Economic Development Director Phillip Smart, hired by Gardner, came onboard for $42,000 a year – $30,000 less than the previous director.
“I told him that after a year, he would get a $6,000 raise,” Gardner said. “But he had to meet certain criteria. He had to bring 10 new viable businesses inside the city limits in order to get his raise.”
Gardner said the new director, while bringing several new businesses, did not meet the criteria for the first year.
“The 15 jobs he brought are good paying jobs, but most of them are in SWID (South Webster Industrial District),” Gardner said. “That is not inside the city limits, so we don’t receive anything from those businesses.”
Gardner also hired a Human Resources Director – a new position for the city. Walker questioned why he would hire her at $50,000 and then promise a $5,000 raise at the end of her first year.
“I set her salary by industry standard,” Gardner said. “And $50,000 is still well below what is offered. If she proves herself, after her first year, she will receive the raise.”
“I want to see all of this in writing,” Walker said to the mayor. “I want to see where they signed it, too, not just you. What you’re showing us is just a memo. I want to see a contract.”
Gardner pointed out that all agreements were verbal. Walker then questioned Gardner’s ability to appoint City Attorney Jimbo Yokum, following the retirement of Charles Minnefield.
“You can’t do that without our approval,” Walker said.
“I most certainly can and did,” the mayor replied. “I have it in writing from the Attorney General that I can appoint the city attorney.”
“On what grounds?” Walker asked.
“Most of the council was not attending the meetings, so we didn’t have a quorum to vote,” Gardner said. “We had to have a city attorney, so I appointed one. The Attorney General wrote a letter saying I have every right to do that.”
Walker then requested to see the letter, which Gardner produced.
As the meeting continued, City Clerk Michael Fluhr attempted to explain other personnel salaries to the three attending council members.
An effort is being made in the budget to bring utility linemen and water department salaries up to standards provided by other cities the size of Minden, in order to take care of employee shortages.
The city budget, which will be presented at the next council meeting, is currently in a deficit of around $2.3M. At a previous workshop, the council managed to cut $538,000.
“I am also figuring in grant money to make up some of that difference,” Fluhr said. “But that’s ‘assumed’ money. We expect to get that, but we may not … or we may not get as much as we think we will.”
The council will meet at 5:30 p.m., Monday, June 7, at Minden City Hall. The public is invited to attend, however, seating is limited.