At the Thursday, April 19 Potterville City Council meeting, an unusual occurrence took place, one that Mayor Katherine Schmidt said is a first for the City of Potterville. The city council voted to not pay the city’s bills.
According to council members Schmidt and Bussard, among the list of unpaid bills was the liability insurance, energy bill, employee health insurance, and others.
The paying of bills came to a vote due to what councilmen Duston Twichell and Bruce Kring, and councilwomen Jennifer Lenneman and Rebeckajo Lewis identified as untimely presentation of bills reports. The reports were presented via email to the council the Wednesday before the Thursday meeting, much to the dismay of the aforementioned council members.
“Since the first of the year we have in open meetings directed the manager to get packets to us in a more timely manner,” said councilman Twichell. “Getting the packet the day before is unacceptable.”
“I didn’t think I could approve them in good faith,” said councilwoman Lenneman.
Mayor Schmidt denied the allegations that bills reports were consistently presented late to council. According to Schmidt, the April 19 council meeting was the first time City Manager Wanda Darrow presented the reports only one day in advance to the monthly council meeting. The last few months the reports were presented consistently by the Tuesday before the meeting. Mayor Schmidt also factored in that there is no set deadline for the presentation of reports to city council, except for the monthly council meetings themselves.
After the council voted at the April 19 meeting not to approve the bills for payment, they set a time for the following week for the vote, thus allowing for more time to review the bills. The second meeting, originally set for the following Thursday, April 26, was soon contested.
Mayor Schmidt quickly became concerned with factors like the liability insurance for the city, as well as reporting finances to the state budget office. Without liability insurance paid, she, councilman Bussard, and the city manager feared the city would shut down, a concern that apparently didn’t come to pass. The concerns led Mayor Schmidt to call an emergency meeting for Monday, April 23 to approve the bills.
“Because we have not paid the bills, we’re in a deficit. We’re talking about not paying $70,000 in bills and interest fees,” said Mayor Schmidt.
A quorum was needed for the approval of the bills. However, that quorum was not met that Monday. Mayor Schmidt planned to continue the request for quorum for the following days leading up to April 26, still lacking the necessary number of council members.
The lack of quorum between Monday and Thursday was a matter of busy schedules, according Twichell and Lennenman.
“The city manager neglects schedules and keeps trying to force a meeting,” said Twichell. “We flat out told her we had other schedules and that we wouldn’t be there. They keep trying to throw us under the bus with these meetings.”
Lack of concern for personal schedules considered, Twichell and Lenneman believe the call for emergency meetings was not only unnecessary, but a coordinated effort to discredit the new council members.
“They’re due on May 1. What’s the difference between having the stuff paid by April 26?” commented Lenneman.
“They’re working in concert to discredit the newly elected council. They are working very hard to turn city employees against us. We have not been able to get a thing done. It’s a constant struggle to try and do anything,” said Twichell.
Council members Bussard and Schmidt had similar sentiments about the resistance to meeting to approve the bills.
“I feel they’re trying to make a political point,” said Mayor Schmidt. “I don’t like being in this position. It’s a disservice to citizens. We talk about transparency, and building a better stronger community. Deviating from those principles for the sake of making a political argument is unacceptable and inexcusable in my opinion.”
“This is insanity,” said councilman Bussard. “We’ve never ran over budget or didn’t pay our bills, they are so disconnected from what the hell is going on.”
The Potterville City Council was still on track to meet and approve the payment of city bills by Thursday, April 26.