It's time to say publicly what many people tell me privately. As is typical in a small community like Glen Rose, they don't want to “make waves” by standing up at a public meeting and saying what's on their minds. But they don't have problems telling a newspaper reporter exactly what they think – as long as they can remain anonymous, of course.
And here's what they're telling me after last week's Glen Rose City Council meeting: It was time to get some new blood on the 4-b Sales Tax Advisory Board – the kind that does not have direct ties to the mayor.
When Mayor Pam Miller said at last week's Glen Rose City Council meeting that her son, Connally, and City Superintendent Ronald Bruce wanted to serve on the 4-b again, no one spoke directly against Connally, although a few told me afterward that they came close to standing up and voicing their opinion.
I don't have anything against Connally Miller personally. He's a nice guy and he's a CPA, which gives him tax expertise. But he's already had his chance to serve. There are other smart, educated, interested people who would like to serve their community, too. To put him up for a second term creates the perception of favoritism.
Husbands and wives and parents and children often work together at private companies. But it's different when it comes to the public's business. Elected and appointed officials in any branch of government should bend over backwards to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. Otherwise, the public's trust can erode.
Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, in-laws and friends serving in city positions in which one person is hiring, supervising, appointing or determining the salary of another is, in my opinion, a conflict. The controversy over the recent hiring of a city clerk again spotlighted this problem.
Last week when the council came to its agenda item to appoint three members to the seven-member 4-b, which makes recommendations to the council about how to spend the money it collects from the 4-b sales tax, Connally Miller, City Superintendent Ronald Bruce and Councilman Chris Bryant had terms that were expiring. The other board members are Darrell Best, Mitchell George, Mike Jones and Sue Oldenburg.
Connally and Bruce would like to be reappointed, Miller told the council. Bryant said he did not want to be on the board again.
Councilman Bob Stricklin nominated architect Ken Prikryl. Councilman Johnny Martin nominated Joan Taylor, who was coming off the city's Preservation Board. Bryant said he didn't think Bruce should serve on the 4-b again since questions had arisen about whether he should be a voting member. Instead, he nominated Trena Sandlin-Shenk, who has served on the Oakdale Park Design and Review Committee.
Mayor Miller said that the city auditor, Cliff May, and Jim Sabonis with the financial advisory firm First Southwest, had recommended that the appointees should all live iwithin the city limits.
That rubbed some people who live outside the city limits, but spend their money in Glen Rose that goes into the city's sales tax coffers, the wrong way.
Craig Dodson, a former 4-b board member who lives in the county, told the council that he didn't think that was fair. Furthermore, it's not correct. He stood up, holding the 4-b handbook in his hand, and read from it.
“I don't live in the city but I want to bring property into the city,” Dodson said. “So if I don't live here, I can't have a voice here? To me it's kind of a flip flop here that you're talking about. We're a small enough community here where we all function together. I would love the city to grow from county line to county line.”
“I wouldn't want to exclude anybody from the county,” Bryant said.
Here's the transcript of the rest of the council's discussion of that issue:
Miller: “Okay. So do we have recommendation now and a motion. Do we want to wait and go later?”
Martin: “I make a motion to nominate Joan Taylor.”
Miller: “If you want to nominate Connally and Ronald, there's only one nomination.”
Bryant: “I want to discourage our superintendent from being involved in it just because last year there were questions about his voting rights. Ronald has enough on his plate right now.”
Barbara Mitchell: “I'd like to see Ken and Joan on there myself. Anybody from the county is fine with me.”
Stricklin: “It's good to have new blood once in a while.”
Bryant: “I make a motion for Trena Shenk, Ken Prykryl and Joan Taylor.”
The motion passed.
Miller: “And you all are here so I will remind you – the 4-b board actually makes recommendations to the council. Just because you say this is what this project is, the council has to look at it and decide if they want to do it.”
So half of the 4-b will be new folks who all have served on city boards or panels before. Perhaps that will mark a fresh start for the 4-b and turn around community perceptions that too much power at city hall has been consolidated within one family.