City Clerk and Councilman discuss budget, Mayor responds

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In an attempt to resolve the City’s issues with the budget, acting City Clerk Michael Fluhr reached out to Councilmen Wayne Edwards of Dist. A, Terika Williams-Walker of Dist. B, and Vincen Bradford of Dist. C. 

He received no response from Councilman Bradford, and Councilman Walker declined a meeting. However, Councilman Edwards did agree to meet with Fluhr in order to address some of his concerns not only with the budget, but the increasingly volatile relationship between the council and the Mayor.

In a document detailing the main takeaways from their meeting, Fluhr describes the current issues Edwards has pertaining to these subjects.

“At the beginning of the meeting, Council Member Edwards made clear that he is speaking only for himself and expressed deep concerns about the current situation in reference to a possible failure to adopt the 2021/2022 budget as well as the tension between council members and the Mayor,” the document read. 

Three concerns were raised over the course of this meeting, including communication between the Council and the Mayor, council input in compensation issues above the limitations regulated by the employee manual, and the pay raise for the HR manager. 

In regards to communication, the document noted, “Mr. Edwards is seeking a commitment from the Mayor publicly (Council Meeting) to a better and more informative relationship to keep the Council more in the “loop” instead of just “open door” to his office. That information flow should include emails, flyers, announcements, and other engagements of major activities in the City.”

In regards to Council input in compensation issues above the limitations regulated by the Employee Manual, the document stated, “Mr. Edwards is requesting an addition in the Employee Manual, which would require Council participation in cases of pay raises for employees (new and established) above the maximum allowance. This practice should be specifically used in the hiring process for employment of candidates in Department Head positions and higher. The involvement of the council should not be used or seen as interference or participation during the hiring process.”

Lastly, in regard to a pay raise for the HR Manager, “Mr. Edwards would approve a pay raise of $ 3000 on the anniversary date of the employee, which would follow the current Employee Manual regulations (maximum 6%). Furthermore, Mr. Edwards would commit to a Council review of the compensation for this specific position with the possibility to raise the starting salary at least to the level which was agreed between the Mayor and the employee. Mr. Edwards acknowledges that the starting salary for the HR manager is not in accordance with current business standards.”

Upon receiving these notes, Mayor Terry Gardner emailed a response to the Councilmen and media with his plans on addressing these concerns and the actions he will take going forward.

“Now that I know what the problems are with the passing of a budget, it gives me the opportunity  to make some changes,

A. I will still send out emails, texts, and flyers, and anything else that comes across my desk to keep the council informed.  I have made sure that each of you are on the mailing list and emails of the Chamber, Minden Press-Herald, and Webster Journal to receive everything that I do.  Hopefully now with everyone being in the loop… everyone can attend ribbon cuttings, fundraiser’s parades etc…and as always you are welcome to call, text, email or stop by city hall.

B.  We will take a hard look at compensation issues as address by the employee manual and suggest revisions as needed….When adopted I will stay within the guidelines set forth

C.  I feel that my hands are tied concerning her salary, I have consulted with the city attorney requiring any legal ramification and have attached his response.”

The response from the City Attorney Jimbo Yocum reads, “As I stated in greater detail in my prior letter, I believe the court would find that a contract exists between the City and Mrs. Agulard. In the event the court determines that a contractual relationship is present, the City’s intentional breach of that agreement would likely put it in “bad faith.” If the City is found to be in “bad faith,” it would be liable for punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and court costs. That is in addition to any lost income, pain -suffering, or possibly other damages that may be proven at a trial. Consequently, the legal exposure on the part of the city would be relatively significant. Moreover, the loss of an employee like Mrs. Agulard, would cause the vacancy of a much needed position at the City.”

Given this legal ramification, the mayor did say that, “Moving forward, I will stay within the 2% to 6%  guidelines for future pay raises.”

“This is my commitment to remedy the concerns addressed by councilman Edwards during his meeting with Michael Fluhr and myself. Hopefully we can get past all of this, approve a budget and continue to move Minden Forward,” said Gardner.

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