Woods’ dismissal in Silt raises questions
Last week, Silt’s newly elected Board of Trustees decided not to retain longtime Town Administrator Pamela Woods, in an indication the board wanted to take the town in a new direction.
Since that time, questions and concerns have been raised as to why the town made the change and about the procedure the board went through to do it, with little reasoning given.
Woods was also placed on paid administrative leave from her dual position as town treasurer, a move that also has raised questions. Town Clerk Sheila McIntyre is acting administrator in the meantime until an interim administrator can be found.
It’s not uncommon after an election cycle for a new board majority to make changes in town administration, especially considering the high-interest election Silt had this spring.
The town saw a three-way race for mayor, which was won in two recounts by Keith Richel, who edged Jay Barner by just one vote. Initial election-night returns had given Barner the edge by one vote, until the votes were canvassed and then recounted due to the close race.
There were also nine candidates vying for four town trustee seats, which were won by Samantha Alexander, Jerry Seifert, T.J. Tucker and Kyle Knott. In that race, too, another candidate, Chris Classen, was initially announced as one of the unofficial winners, before canvassing caught what Clerk McIntyre said was a mathematical error in the initial count.
The town now only has two members from its previous board, including Dina Prieto, whose seat will be up in 2020, and Richel, who moved from trustee to mayor. The rest are fresh faces.
In Woods’ original contract with the town signed in December of 2010, the terms state that the Board of Trustees has the right to terminate the services of Woods at any time, with or without cause.
The third candidate for mayor, Bryan Fleming, who served as a trustee from 2010 to 2018, said eight years ago when he came on, the board made changes top to bottom, including at the town administrator position.
He added, however, that when that decision was made, the trustees announced that they needed to make big changes and said why they were doing it.
“The board can do whatever they choose, that position is appointed by the board … but I have no idea what their reasoning is for this,” he said. “I don’t see what the justification is.”
Fleming questioned the procedure the board went through to dismiss Woods, including the two executive sessions it took to conclude the April 23 meeting, where the 5-1 decision was ultimately made, with Prieto casting the lone “no” vote.
Fleming added that the board had every right to appoint a new administrator, saying “they were elected to take Silt in a new direction.”
But he questioned why they didn’t just work out a deal as far as her dual position as town treasurer is concerned, thank her for her service, and move on.
“As a treasurer, you will find nobody better,” he concluded.
Former trustee Aron Diaz, who decided not to run for reelection to a second term, said he’s concerned that the town may be vulnerable to lawsuit because of the way it handled Woods’ dismissal.
He thinks the town could saved itself some trouble had they just said thanks and went in a different direction. But it looks like they “wanted to stick it to Pam,” Diaz said.
Town Attorney Michael Sawyer said on Tuesday that, with the board’s decision not to renew Woods’ contract, she was placed on paid administrative leave as town treasurer, which is within the board’s authority.
He did not go into detail about the decision not to retain her because it involves a personnel action.
Sawyer went on to say that the board has power in the absence of a town administrator to make sure the town is functioning properly.
In the town’s job description for treasurer position, it states that the treasurer works under direction of the town administrator. It also states that the position is appointed by the Board of Trustees and answers directly to the town administrator, but in this case Woods served in both capacities.
Therefore, without a town administrator, it was left to the board to decide how to handle the treasurer position, as well.
Sawyer said the process of finding an interim town administrator is ongoing, followed by a formal process to name a permanent replacement.
While McIntyre is serving as a “caretaker” for the time being, Sawyer said the town plans to announce its new interim town manager at the next Town Council meeting.
When called for this story, Woods said that she has no comment at the advice of her legal counsel.