Fireworks erupt at Washington City Council meeting
An otherwise humdrum Washington City Council meeting came to a fiery finish as the mayor read a statement rebuking two councilmen just before adjournment.
“It seems we have a couple guys who think that they are king, and that they can lay down their decree and that’s the law,” said Mayor Brenda Davis. “Well, I have news for you – that’s not the case.”
Davis accused Councilman Ken Westcott of taking it upon himself to close City Hall during a snowstorm Jan. 25, resulting in several employees receiving paid time off.
After the meeting, Westcott rebutted the accusation, explaining that Councilmen Joe Manning and Matt Staniszewski also voted in favor of allowing four city employees to leave about an hour early because of the weather.
“The decision wasn’t made by one council member; it was made by a majority of council members,” he said. “So the statement is not an accurate statement. The mayor lied tonight.”
Westcott pointed out that he had served as mayor for eight years and knows the importance of allowing council members to do their jobs – a boundary he said Davis tends to overstep. Despite such issues, Westcott said he is willing to work with anybody.
Following the comments aimed at Westcott, the mayor turned her ire toward Staniszewski, whom she accused of making a city employee cry and creating an “untenable working environment.”
“Parading around discussing how much alcohol you drank over the weekend, and moving paperwork around and not putting it back the way you found it is unacceptable,” Davis said regarding the latter councilman.
The mayor held up a photo of a memo regarding a complaint from a taxpayer that she claimed Staniszewski had crumpled up and placed in her mailbox. Davis alleged Staniszewski, who serves as the public works director, sent her a text message telling her not to send him such memos, reiterating she’s not his boss. She proceeded to read from the state Third Class City Code regarding her ability to call on a department director for any and all issues.
“The mayor’s statements are completely false, and they’re lies to the public,” Staniszewski said after the meeting.
“Anyone can crumple up a piece of paper and claim that someone else put it in the box,” he added.
Staniszewski said he had spoken regularly with the resident in question and had been to her home to address the complaint. He hinted at the possibility of litigation against Davis, stating that he would be meeting with an attorney today.
“The mayor right now believes that this is a dictatorship and not a democracy,” Staniszewski said.
The final portion of the mayor’s statement addressed her disappointment over the handling of the solid waste contact.
“As a result of it being bid twice, an extra burden has been placed on the backs of the taxpayer,” Davis said.
At the agenda meeting Monday, council mulled increasing trash pickup from $175 to $243 per year after a second bid from Waste Management came back more than $100,000 higher than the first. Davis had explained that the company’s first bid, which had contained an increase of only $36,000, was tabled after Staniszewski asked that an option limiting the weight of garbage trucks be added.
Staniszewski contends that the mayor had sent incomplete specifications to Waste Management. He also pointed out that the motion to table the first bid was unanimously approved by the entire council.
“Had the mayor communicated with all of City Council, we wouldn’t be in this mess now,” Staniszewski said. “The rate for the first bid to the second bid was exactly the same. What has changed was the number of houses that Waste Management bid.”
A motion to increase the rate was unanimously tabled Thursday.
To conclude her statement, Davis suggested earmarking a portion of the more than half-million dollars carried over into the general fund this year to help pay administrative costs in an effort to reduce the trash pickup increase to $25.