Council to hold organizational meeting

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By David Giuliani

The new four-member City Council will meet for the first time on Monday — a session in which the mayor said he hopes to set the city on a positive direction.

Mayor Tony Marquez, who took office earlier this month, is setting an organizational meeting for 6 p.m. in the council’s chambers at City Hall.

He is planning another meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the San Miguel County Commission’s chambers in the old courthouse.

“I hope to get the city started in the right direction at the organizational meeting, and I hope to initiate an atmosphere of cooperation and goodwill for the betterment of our community,” he said.

It will be the first meeting for Ward 3 Councilman Andrew Feldman, who beat four opponents in the March 4 municipal election. With the election, the council’s size was cut in half from eight members to four — a voter-mandated reduction.

Councilman Cruz Roybal said the mayor must fill vacancies such as city manager and city attorney, but he urged against making changes in top personnel unless the city has a good reason to do so.

“I don’t want to see employees moving around for political favors. I don’t believe in messing around with people’s livelihoods,” he said.

He also said the new mayor has tried to call him twice, but he immediately told Marquez that he didn’t want to speak with him unless there is a witness. He also said the mayor could communicate with him through memos.

“I don’t trust him,” the councilman said. “I will not communicate with him because I know him.”

Roybal wouldn’t detail why he didn’t trust Marquez. The two have served on the council together for more than a decade.

Councilman Morris Madrid said he wanted changes to happen in open session.

“Whatever happens, I hope it’s the right thing,” he said.

He said many at City Hall are concerned for their jobs.

“I’ve had a few calls of concern, mainly from relatives of staff calling to ask what’s going to happen to their spouse or dad or uncle,” Madrid said.

He said that he has told them that if their loved ones are classified employees — which most are — their jobs are secure. But he said that’s not necessarily the case with department heads.

Madrid said the city charter is not entirely clear on the mayor’s powers. The mayor can appoint new department heads or reappoint the existing ones.

“But if there is a new appointee, what is the status of the current appointee? Is there an automatic termination?” he asked.

He suggested the council would have to approve the ouster of current appointees.

Madrid said that if he were mayor, he would seek the opinion of a neutral attorney on issues relating to the mayor’s powers.

The appointment of department heads didn’t become an issue in the last mayoral transition in 2002. Then, Mayor Henry Sanchez kept the administration of his predecessor, Tony Martinez, whom he ousted in the election.

Marquez said he has the power to appoint department heads as long as the council affirms his choices.

He said he didn’t want to get into a public debate with Madrid or Roybal over issues relating to council or mayoral powers.

“I’m very disappointed that these two councilmen persist in negativity, division, mistrust and fear-mongering. I had hoped that they would change for the better if the people spoke. Obviously, if they choose to continue the dark past, they are free to do so, but they will have to answer to their constituents,” Marquez said.

Councilwoman Diane Moore wants the council to define the city’s mission and develop a vision statement.

“We should also have some ground rules: Remain focused, mutual respect. We should all have the opportunity to participate and be positive,” she said.

Feldman didn’t return a call for comment.

Council meetings

What: City Council organizational meeting, required to be held within 21 days after the election.

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: City Council chambers in City Hall.

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What: City Council special meeting

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: San Miguel County Commission chambers in old courthouse