Sunday, March 02, 2008

More Bethel Politics

It has been almost a month since the February 8th Special Meeting of the Bethel City Council in which the Council summarily fired the City Attorney at what was supposed to be her two-year evaluation. In that time the entire city has been mired in a pall of shock and dismay at the unexpected and uncalled-for action of the Council, and that pall shows no sign of lifting.

The two Regular Meetings of the Council which have occurred since the 8th have seen the gallery portion of Council Chambers packed with concerned citizens who have spoken repeatedly and passionately of their disappointment and disagreement with the Council’s action. The mayor has been told over and over and over again how wrong he was not to recognize the patently obvious conflict of interest the newly appointed Council member had in participating in the evaluation of the City Attorney and in the subsequent motion to terminate her immediately, without warning, without counseling, without opportunity to correct whatever deficits they found—very few, essentially—in her performance of her duties. At her six-month and one-year evaluations, she received glowing remarks about her performance.

The way in which this entire matter was handled was stunningly and breathtakingly wrong. The City Attorney’s three-year contract would have been up in the fall anyway. The Council could simply have waited a few months and then not renewed her contract if they felt that she must be gotten rid of. But no, they chose to follow this shocking course of action and terminate her immediately.

One of the Council’s long-time members, a man who is nothing more than a Blustering Bloviator who has contributed little to the betterment of the city in his long years on Council, read into the record the portion of the Bethel Municipal Code which states that the City Attorney (and the City Manager and the City Clerk) serves as an at-will employee who may be terminated by the Council with or without cause. This is true; however, it does not mean that proper procedures must not be followed. The former City Attorney is now expected to file a Wrongful Termination suit against the city of Bethel which will quite probably cost the citizens of this city, and possibly the individual Council members, a whole lot of money. She has a very valid suit, and I, for one, hope she wins.

The ripples of this event have spread through the town with flood-like proportions. People have talked of little else, in gatherings large and small, public and private. At the hospital, at the post office, at the grocery stores, the buzz has not died down. At last week’s Regular Meeting of the Council, one of the members—one who counseled against this rash action—noted that no other issue has packed the gallery with irate citizens and so dominated public attention as this one has. The four thugs who brought this about still do not seem to get it. The newly appointed Council member actually referred to the public’s outcry as “whining” and dismissed it as inconsequential. His disdain for the citizens of Bethel could not have been more obvious.

Another layer to these events is that a local businessman has filed an injunction against the continued participation of the newly appointed Council member, based on the fact that his appointment was not done according to the requirements of the Bethel Municipal Code. The BMC requires that persons be appointed to vacant seats by an open vote of Council; the current member was appointed by a secret ballot. Local judges from the Bethel Court System have recused themselves from ruling on this matter, and it has been referred to judges in Fairbanks. It is unclear what the outcome of this issue could be; if the judges rule in favor of the businessman, it is possible that the Council will be enjoined from any further meetings or actions until they to go through the appointment process all over again. It is also unclear what that would mean for actions taken in the interim, such as the termination of the City Attorney.

Within days of that February 8th Special Meeting, rumors abounded that the city’s insurance carrier, Alaska Public Entities Insurance, would not cover any damages resulting from a Wrongful Termination law suit; and more, that they would terminate Bethel’s insurance altogether. APEI issued a memo to the City Manager stating that this was a distinct possibility.

Discussion of the insurance issue was placed as an item on last week’s meeting agenda, and a telephone hook-up was arranged with a representative of the insurance company to explain to Council and the public the company’s position. This representative stated that the city’s current policy, instituted in June of 2006, requires the Council to seek the advice of an attorney before firing an at-will employee. Which they obviously did not do. And ignorance of that clause does not excuse them. This is the basis on which the insurance company can refuse to cover the damages from the former City Attorney’s Wrongful Termination suit. If they do, the city of Bethel will be solely responsible for the possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars which she may be awarded in this suit. Money which the city simply does not have. The maker of the motion to terminate should have done his due diligence and known this before making his rash motion.

The APEI representative did reassure the Council that the city’s policy would not be immediately terminated; however, its renewal in June is in some question, and if renewed, is likely to be more expensive and have more restrictive clauses than before. No matter how one looks at this, the Council’s ill-considered action is going to be costly to the citizens of Bethel. The worst-case scenario is that it could drive the city into bankruptcy. All so that the four thugs who perpetrated this travesty could feel smug and powerful for a few brief seconds.

They simply have to go. All four of them. Recall petitions are already in the works for the mayor and the maker of the motion to terminate the City Attorney. People are lined up to sign those petitions. The will of the people is clear, and people’s opinion on this matter is not a bunch of whining. The other two of the foursome, the newly appointed Council member and the Bloviator both have to stand for re-election in October, and many of us are willing to do the grass-roots work necessary to keep the issues before the public and get the vote out to see, hopefully, that they are not re-elected.

But equally important is that good people, dedicated people, must step forward to be willing to serve on Council. Bethel is a city facing many important issues which need the reasoned and considered guidance of a wise and temperate City Council. Bethel’s history as an inconsequential little backwater village full of misfits and reprobates is exactly that—history. It is time that the Bethel City Council reflects the respectable and honorable citizenry that it serves.



Blogger #1 Dinosaur said...

[G]ood people, dedicated people, must step forward to be willing to serve on Council.

Hello? Calling TPA? Hello?

Monday, March 03, 2008 2:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a shame that the wise Tundra PA has to spend his/her time writing about this nonsense, but thankfully he/she does get the word out as to the atrocities being committed by this vile group of cro magnon. Hey, maybe that's why the're known as the C.A.V.E. group! ( Citizens Against Virtually Everything ). Remember Tundra PA, when one of them shows up with the dripsies,and one of them will, do the right thing. Amputate!

I tell you what, for some this is a very exciting time in Bethel politics, probably just as exciting as escaping those Japanese captors through a trap door with clipped gerbil securely lodged, and especially as clipped gerbil has risen to the level of Grand Pubah. And with the prospect of clipped gerbil looking to relocate to Southeast Alaska for a while. Speaking of Southeast, I hope no one goes asking too many questions about Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim, especially what type of "work" or "pleasure" clipped gerbil may or may not be involved in. Allegedly!

Mc Cheese did a good job of reworking Title III some years back, at huge expense to the taxpayers, but at least that enabled these bungling ass gnats to fire the city attorney...except for the fact that State and Federal laws supercede the local ordinance. Hire Right, Fire Right, Morons. Guess the tab will continue to rise. Don't I remember that said rogue Mc Cheese expended funds in excess of $16k without approval???? Allegedly!

Oh, and someone should tell campaign manager to bring some backup when leveling shots across the bow towards other members of this esteemed body. Does he/she really think George McGovern would have conducted business in this manner?

Maybe this whole mess can be reversed in some way...and I don't mean putting magnets on your power meter there Torchy. Allegedly!

My friend "Carlos Hathcock" wants to build a clocktower in Bethel for some reason, I suggest some of you help him out.

Monday, March 03, 2008 9:07:00 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

I know this question is unrelated to this particular entry... sorry.

I am an LKSD teacher in a village and I can't help but notice the insane amount of hyperventilations I see here! In school, at basketball games, or just during overnight stays at academic events such as speech, robotics, or science fair.

Why do the village students hyperventilate so often? Is there an actual physical contribution to the issue, or is it more of a learned behavior/attention getter? Thoughts?

I just happened to stumble across your blog while looking for some materials for my health class one day and have found some insightful/helpful/amusing things here. Thanks for writing!

Monday, March 03, 2008 9:43:00 PM  
Blogger The Tundra PA said...

Dino--thanks for the nod, but I'm really not a very political person (despite a post here and there). Sitting up on that lofty dais would give me hives!

Two Dogs--you're over my head with some of this...clocktower? huh?

Victoria--my guess is that the kids are using hyperventilation as a cheap high. If you do it long and strong enough, it will make you dizzy and tingly (gosh, doesn't that sound enticing?). Have you read my post on huffing? If you check the archives, I think it was in August of 2006. It remains my single most-Googled piece of writing. Thanks for visiting, and for commenting...

Monday, March 03, 2008 11:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think what Victoria was talking about is kids hyperventilating under pressure. They do it in basketball games, when they're about to give a speech, things like that. I'm with LKSD too, and in my experience its mostly girls doing this. I had a friend who was a good cross country runner in college, but in the biggest races he would sometimes have "performance-induced asthma." Maybe its something like that? Sometimes it can seem quite serious and it takes a long time to get the student under control again. You can usually see it coming if you know the kid is susceptible to it. The other thing I've seen here is fainting in similar situations. Yup'ik culture is so reserved, it is a much bigger deal to say or do anything in front of people than most of us are used to. Maybe it is related to that, I don't know.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger The Tundra PA said...

Indefinitely--makes a lot of sense to me; you are quite likely right. I have never seen this phenomenon; I'm seeing the kids in a much different emotional climate than you are. It is certainly against all Yupik cultural teaching for a young person to stand up in front of people and elevate themselves or put themselves forward. I have only rarely seen a kid in clinic for hyperventilating; I did not know the practice was so widespread. I will be more sensitive to the possibility in the future. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008 5:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back on the Bethel political scene, some councilmembers need the corks pulled out of their backsides to allow matter to pass through. They're backed up, they're so full that words of reason cannot pass between the ears, and as a result the city's business cannot pass through. It is cerebral constipation, and it has been going on for so long with them that there might not be an enema for it. I am talking about the misfiring musketeers -- Thorn, Fric and Swillie.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 12:39:00 AM  

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