Tempers are getting hotter in Sumner – and the broken air conditioner didn’t help during last night’s regular city council meeting.
It was John Galle’s first council meeting and it was the contested topic of the evening, as members of the community and city council expressed their opinions on his appointment and concern over how he came into office.
During public comment, resident Kathleen Schaffer called Galle’s appointment “beyond unconscionable” and questioned why the city didn’t open up the job description to the general public.
“I am in shock you didn’t consider the best efforts for the City of Sumner,” said Schaffer. “I think the time for making complaints to this council is over because you are out of touch with what this town needs.”
Mayor Dave Enslow questioned Schaffer’s ties to Sumner and whether or not she was a city resident at all. He then defended his decision to appoint Galle into the highest position of the city by pointing out that the “wonderfulness of Sumner comes from the staff” and that the balanced budget and city management is impressive and shouldn’t be a concern.
“I’m sure there are a lot of qualified people out there but I feel very fortunate that we hired the person we did,” said Enslow. “Because that’s what mayors do – mayors make decisions about hiring particular senior staff people… I made a good decision and I feel sorry there is second-guessing going on but sometimes that’s part of being the mayor – having rocks thrown at you.”
Councilmember Nancy Dumas attempted to add an amendment to the meeting agenda to discuss Galle’s appointment and Randy Hynek seconded her motion. After some back and forth, the council voted twice to move the discussion forward. City Attorney Brett Vinson pushed back on the measure and, after a couple tries to have a council discussion, the council flipped and the amendment was overruled.
“We had this discussion last week and voted 5-2 to approve the contract. I don’t know what else there is to say about it,” said Enslow. “Changing it when we’ve had a vote on it seems strange to me. Seems like the people who are doing it are sore losers.”
Dumas responded that she was not trying to be a “sore loser,” she was looking out for the interests of the community and wanted the opportunity to express her concerns over Galle’s salary terms, his limited financial experience and the haste under which his contract was approved.
“As much as I respect our new city administrator, in a very short time he’ll be getting paid the same amount as our prior city administrator, who has over 30 years of city experience and who is a financial guru in her own right,” said Hynek. “We’ll have to hire a separate financial analyst plus a city administrator to take her place.”
Hynek then stated that he knew “why Galle was really appointed” – because he pressed criminal charges against him in the while he was police chief.
“Your alleged attempt to indict me in a felony was wrong,” Hynek told Galle during council reports.
Enslow then called a 5-minute recess so everyone could cool off, during which Hynek and councilmember Curt Brown exchanged aggressive verbal barbs while standing on the dais.
“Even though I’m accused of voting the way the mayor wants, that is untrue,” said Brown during his report. “If people want me to be known as the Mayor’s pawn, so be it. But just know I’m voting for the best for you.”
During her council report, Dumas remained firm about why she was questioning Galle’s appointment.
“If I were in an employment office and I was looking at Galle’s resume, I am not seeing the transferrable skill set from police chief to city administrator. The lack of experience is what I find concerning,” said Dumas. “That doesn’t mean [Galle] can’t be a quick study, but we’re in the middle of a budget year. When I was in the office about 6 weeks ago, all the financial documents were being pulled out of Diane’s office. When we are at such a strain as a city that we have to charge event fees, I don’t see how this is in the financial interest of our citizens.”
Before the council moved into executive session, Enslow expressed his dismay over the statements of his council.
“Frankly I’m embarrassed about how we’ve been acting… at least some of us,” said Enslow. “He’s exactly the man we need for the job. There are so many moving parts in this town that we didn’t have time for an extensive city administrator search. Sorry that some of the council can’t just accept it and move on.”