Executive power in government is a matter of public trust, a precious and precarious commodity jeopardized when those wielding it look like the gang that can’t shoot straight. Or one that won’t.
Interim City Manager Marena Works said that on Wednesday, she became aware from bond counsel and a check that notification procedures for public hearings regarding the city’s one-eighth-of-a-cent sales-tax increase had been botched. A proper decision was made to require Carson City’s Board of Supervisors to vote again in April, twice for procedural purity, on the tax hike.
But the board, which already had approved it 4-1 twice to do capital projects, needed to be informed. Works and advisers did that, individually and privately. Works, when asked about it at least 48 hours after having first learned Wednesday of the problem, said it took her until after Thursday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to get to all five in private. Did she then tell the public about the inadvertent glitch via a news release?
Truth being stranger than fiction, she did not. She left it to board members, apparently, and predictably, the lone member who voted against the plan went public.
Friday night, after writing a story on it, I headed for Virginia City to hear folk singer Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s gig there. I ran into Chet Alexander, a neighbor of mine and former military man. After discovering something about the glitch and do-over decision on his mobile device before the concert, he was critical.
“What a bunch of clowns,” he said. “They ought to have their pay docked.”
Not surprising, though others might ask how people who couldn’t do a routine legal notification requirement on a big issue could make in excess of $100,000 annually in the first place. Or whether people who can’t handle such routine should be entrusted to shepherd multimillion-dollar capital improvement projects. Is this the gang that can’t shoot straight? For me, however, a more important question is if they won’t shoot straight either.
Works told me she took 24 hours to tell all board members privately because she couldn’t do it at the public meeting without first having it on the agenda. Is she kidding? Using the letter of the law, from my viewpoint incorrectly, to thwart the spirit of the law is obfuscation. As I read it, the law doesn’t bar her or slow her in telling them privately, nor prohibit public disclosure during general public comment when Thursday’s meeting began.
It just prohibits discussion and action until it’s on the agenda. Works made executive choices. She chose initially to stay behind the scenes, managing from the shadows.
Why she stayed there 24 hours longer begs the question: Did she choose Friday to use a silencer while she shot herself in the foot, or was she told to do so?
John Barrette covers Carson City government and business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.