Stanton hires acting city manager

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 6:39 pm on Thursday, December 22, 2016

Elizabeth Pynaert

STANTON — The Stanton City Commission voted 6-1 during a special meeting Tuesday night to appoint an acting city manager and to re-advertise for a permanent city manager.

The City Commission offered a full-time acting city manager job to Elizabeth Pynaert, who works as executive assistant and community liaison for the city. Pynaert accepted the job. She will meet with Mayor Larry Petersen to finalize details regarding duties and salary.

Lakeview and Stanton previously shared a manager, but Stanton officials voiced their desire to end that agreement in November. In light of that development, the Lakeview Village Council voted to hire Shay Gallagher as its own full-time village manager.

Stanton officials then had a change of heart and reached out to Lakeview officials last week to see if Lakeview was interested in sharing a manager again, but Lakeview officials declined.

Petersen said he contacted city attorney Clifford Bloom to ask whether Stanton should re-advertise for the city manager job, as the job was originally advertised as a dual job between Lakeview and Stanton. Petersen said Bloom advised the City Commission to re-advertise as the city is an equal opportunity employer.

“Legally, we need to advertise this position,” Petersen said.

Commissioner Karl Yoder wondered why the city couldn’t simply choose from the previous pool of applicants.

“I think that’s a gray area,” Petersen replied. “As of our last meeting, we were talking about a half-time position and before we were offering a full-time position shared with Lakeview.”

Commissioner Ken Burris argued the city should not re-advertise the job, citing a letter from a “concerned citizen” saying the city can legally hire from within.

Commissioner Charles Miel, a former Montcalm County judge, noted the letter that Burris cited wasn’t even signed. Burris said he was not “at liberty” to share who wrote the letter.

“This came from the internet,” Burris declared of the information cited in the anonymous letter. “I maintain that this meeting is 100 percent legal and that we can make a motion and vote tonight.”

“Our attorney says we should advertise,” Miel emphasized.

Petersen agreed that because Stanton is a municipality, they should follow the attorney’s advice and advertise the job.

“If that’s true, we ought to have the right to sue Lakeview because they didn’t advise for a full-time position,” Commissioner Larry Seaman declared. “They went against us.”

“They didn’t go against us,” Petersen said. “They just went on their own.”

Seaman made a motion to appoint a city manager immediately. Burris supported the motion.

“Our attorney told us it’s illegal,” Miel said. “Why make more of a mess for us?”

Commissioner Krista Johnson noted that last week the City Commission approved a motion to advertise the job if Lakeview officials weren’t interested in being involved. She questioned what happens to that approved motion if the city disregards it.

“There’s a campaign on to not allow a certain individual in, which was the only woman that was in all of the candidates and was the next in line with the vote that was taken before,” said Burris referring to Pynaert. “It just looks like a little bit of discrimination to me. There are people wanting to stay away from having an individual having an opportunity to advance and I think it stinks.”

Yoder asked if Seaman would withdraw his motion and allow Yoder to make a motion to offer the job of acting city manager to Pynaert until the city can advertise and review candidates for a permanent city manager. Seaman agreed to withdraw his motion and Burris seconded the motion.

Yoder made the new motion, but Burris still wasn’t happy.

“You’re asking to get a job done and not get full pay and benefits and that’s wrong,” he said. “This part-time business is what some of us don’t want because that’s what we had with the last two city managers and they goofed things up,” he said.

Yoder reworded his motion to make the acting city manager job full-time. Miel wanted clarification about whether the job would be full-time for the permanent city manager as well.

“The (Montcalm) county got in trouble by spending money they didn’t have,” Miel said. “I don’t want to get into that situation here. The position that we had before was that we couldn’t afford it.”

The motion to make Pynaert acting full-time city manager was approved 6-1 with Miel voting no. Miel clarified that he has nothing against Pynaert, but he doesn’t believe the city can afford to hire a full-time manager after last week’s discussion about the city budget.

The next regular Stanton City Commission meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 27.

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