The Sherwood City Council disagrees over who should be the liaison to the chamber of commerce

Things are heating in Sherwood after a divisive vote involving who has the power of appointing liaisons to the city’s groups and committees, specifically whether the mayor is the sole arbitrator when it comes to appointments to non-city organizations.

The issue came to a head during a Feb. 25 council meeting when Councilor Dave Grant proposed a “walk-on” item moving to appoint Councilor Matt Langer as liaison to the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.

The move angered Mayor Bill Middleton who had previously appointed Councilor Krisanna Clark to serve in the role with the mayor emphasizing that he’s the only one who can appoint a liaison, and wanted her to continue in that position.

“It’s not the council’s decision,” Middleton pointed out firmly, joining the council on a conference call from Montreal, Canada.

Grant has argued that the city charter only gives guidance on the mayor’s role in appointing residents to city commissions, committees, ad hoc groups or limited term committees and not to private, non-profit organizations such as the chamber.

Although Council President Linda Henderson noted that the mayor appoints liaisons to most committees, the chamber is not a city board or commission.

“There’s still no authority anywhere to allow you to do this,” Middleton replied.

In the end, the majority of the council (Langer, Grant, Bill Butterfield and Robyn Folsom) voted to have Langer serve as the new chamber liaison with Middleton, Henderson and Clark opposing the measure.

After the vote, Middleton expressed his displeasure.

“I think this was a poor way to settle the process,” he said.

The action seemed to catch many off guard, including Henderson who said it wasn’t until shortly before the meeting that she was aware of the push to name Langer as the council’s non-voting representative who attends chamber board meetings and special events.

“I said, ‘that is not the agreement we had with the mayor,’” Henderson said, saying Middleton had asked that a final decision on the liaison seat be pushed to the March 4 meeting since he was out of town for the Feb. 25 meeting.

Henderson said she didn’t want a vote to take away from the work a charter review committee had done when asking for putting charter amendments to a May vote.

“In my mind, the two issues didn’t have anything to do with each other,” said Henderson. “I don’t think this is a win for anybody.”

Middleton appointed Clark as liaison to the chamber in January 2013. Traditionally, liaison positions last two years, he said. Langer served as the first chamber liaison to the Sherwood City Council, according to Nancy Bruton, chief executive officer of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce.

In a December letter to City Manager Joe Gall, Bruton said that the chamber board wanted to share both its expectations and provide a description of what the board would like to see in a liaison. Those expectations included being a business owner or leader, monthly attendance of at least 20 minutes at the beginning of board meetings, support for chamber objectives and recognition that it was a non-voting position.

A subsequent letter mentioned thanking Langer for agreeing to serve as the new liaison; with Henderson accepting as alternate (something that Henderson said she didn’t sign off on having her name attached).

Mayor Middleton sent a letter back to the chamber saying the city normally changes liaison positions every two years and that Clark volunteered to continue on for the next year in her position as liaison.

“I have provided her with a copy of the description and expectations for the position which I believe is much the same as last years (sic),” Middleton wrote. “She has agreed to attend your board meetings and other chamber events when possible.”

But a Feb. 24 letter from the chamber said the chamber board believed that Clark had resigned her position in July 2013 based on a text message she sent to Bruton on June 13 that read: “Since you have been in attendance at Council meetings, I feel it is redundant for me to attend your board meetings. I’ll of course continue to give the city update at your body breakfasts. Better to pool resources so we can accomplish much together.”

Clark denies that the text was a resignation and said that claims by some who said she was missing meetings are not true.

“I never resigned,” said Clark. “I continued to attend everything.”

Chamber officials say Clark hasn’t attended a formal board meeting since June.

However, up to that point, Clark said she attended every board meeting from January 2013 through May, and in all has attended 30 board meetings, breakfasts or events altogether.

“At no point did I ever say I do not want to be part of your board,” she said.

Meanwhile, Clark said she didn’t think it was very productive to report to the chamber since in recent months the chamber has had a representative at all the council board meetings. Clark said she was offended by the request that she only was welcome for 20 minutes.

Bruton has said that the time frame mentioned was out of respect for the councilor’s time and not a request that she had to leave after 20 minutes.

Clark, whose late husband Del was a member of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce and a past president, said she was surprised that the chamber asked for a business owner for the chamber liaison position. She pointed out that liaisons to the senior center do not need to be seniors and those appointed to the library board do not need to be librarians.

Clark, who said she will be making a decision on whether or not to run for mayor within the next month, said she was surprised that some council members would make an appointment without the mayor present.

“I’m disappointed we’re not being respectful of the process,” she said. “I hope there can be a resolution.”

The city is a member of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, paying $500 in dues annually. The chamber also receives in-kind contributions from the city for the yearly chamber-sponsored Cruisin’ Sherwood festival.

Councilor Langer said he believes his appointment as liaison is binding, saying there is nothing in the charter specifically related to appointments outside of city boards and commissions.

“This would be like any (non-city affiliated) group,” said Langer. “It could be a musical group or whatever.”

Langer, the owner of Sentinel Storage and a spokesman for Langer Family LLC, which oversees the family’s land holdings, said the council tried to address the chamber liaison issue two months ago and he doesn’t believe waiting another week for a vote would have been helpful. Langer said he believes Middleton would have simply put Clark’s reappointment to the chamber up for a vote, the same as Grant did.

“We just thought it was time to get it over with,” said Langer, who said he’s “strongly” considering running again for council but has yet to announce.

In putting forth the resolution, Grant said he believes it was time to get on with a liaison appointment, pointing out that liaison appointments are something that are done at the beginning of the year.

“I felt we waited long enough and it needed to be done,” said Grant. “My reading of the charter is it’s silent on non-city boards and commissions.”

Grant said he knows that the mayor had selected Clark as liaison but that the vote on Feb. 25 didn’t have the support of the rest of the council.

“He (Middleton) was sticking to his guns and so was I,” said Grant. “It was going to be on the agenda on Tuesday but I believe it will be removed because it is done.”

While some speculate that there could be a clash between some personalities on the chamber board and the city council, Bruton said it is not the chamber’s intention to make the liaison slot political.

However, Langer said it might be political between former Mayor Keith Mays and Mayor Middleton.

“They just don’t like each other,” said Langer, pointing out that Mays is president-elect of the chamber.

Mays was mayor when Middleton sued the city, claiming he was demoted as police chief while serving on active duty in the U.S. Army reserves. He received a $250,000 settlement from the city in 2009 as a result of the suit. Middleton subsequently beat Mays in a November 2012 mayoral election.

Middleton does not deny the fact there is no love lost between himself and the former mayor. Still, he believes the council’s liaison action was a “back-door move.”

“They don’t have the authority to do that,” he said before returning to Sherwood late last week.

Middleton, too, said he believes the chamber liaison issue may be political as well, noting that both he and Clark have asked for an audit of the Sherwood Family YMCA, where current chamber president Renee Brouse serves as executive director.

On Thursday, City Manager Gall said the Feb. 25 liaison appointment of Langer by Grant caught himself and staff off guard. He has asked the city’s attorney to look into the matter as to who ultimately can make liaison appointments to a non-city affiliated organization.

“I’m going to try to get something by Tuesday night,” said Gall. “That’s my goal.”

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