The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors, in a special meeting last week, considered public input protesting a motion it approved in the wee hours of its Oct. 18 meeting to remove Supervisor Betty Argue as ITID treasurer.
However, after receiving dozens of e-mails and listening to dozens of in-person speakers, none of the three supervisors who voted in favor of the motion would reconsider the decision.
At the Nov. 1 reconvened meeting, ITID Attorney Mary Viator said there were procedural issues in the removal of Argue as treasurer at the prior meeting because an opportunity was not given for public comment.
“I think it would be appropriate to receive public comments with regard to this,” she said. “Following that, the board can discuss what they want to do, if anything.”
ITID President Jennifer Hager noted that she had not voted to remove Argue as treasurer. The vote was 3-2 with Hager and Argue dissenting. The rules of procedure require someone in the majority to bring it up for reconsideration.
Argue maintained that there was no good-cause determination for her removal as treasurer, or as point person for the Acreage Community Park expansion.
Viator said good-cause determination is not required for agenda amendments or additions, and while it would have been advisable to let people speak, due to the lateness of the meeting, everyone was in a rush to leave.
“I am recommending that you do receive public comment,” she said, adding that the initial motion to remove Argue as point person for the park failed, but Supervisor Ralph Bair later changed his vote to remove Argue after the actual vote.
Hager read several dozen letters from residents asking the board to reconsider Ague’s removal, although a few approved of the action. Several dozen residents then spoke against her removal from the appointed position. Argue’s removal as treasurer did not change her status as an elected ITID supervisor.
Bair asked that the letters be received and filed, but not read. However, Hager insisted that they all be read aloud, although she passed over some form letters asking that the board reconsider its action.
A letter from Michelle Floyd pointed out that the motion to remove Argue had been made more than four hours into the Oct. 18 meeting and no public input was invited.
“We feel these decisions were made out of malice, and by their own words, Betty Argue was targeted for spending too much time actually doing her job,” Floyd wrote. “Furthermore, the same individuals actually commented on tape how little time they actually spent doing the same job when in the same position.”
Arlene Moore expressed her support for the board’s decision regarding Argue’s removal. “She is a nightmare to work with,” Moore wrote. “I’m surprised it took this long, and I feel terrible for anyone who is a victim of her wrath.”
An e-mail from Howard Zusel stated that he was surprised that the board had acted in “such an unprofessional and possibly illegal manner.”
“Supervisor Argue putting in extra hours and acting in a professional manner on behalf of ITID residents and voters is a positive action that should be rewarded and not punished,” he wrote. “We strongly request that you rethink this action.”
Terri Sayre spoke during public comment against Argue’s removal.
“I’ve been watching all the meetings all summer long, and I was just appalled at the last meeting,” she said. “It’s embarrassing. The expressions of supervisors laughing, smirking, rolling eyes, not looking at people when they’re speaking, walking out of the room, walking out of the room accepting phone calls — it’s just uncalled for. You’re here to do a job for us… We’re not happy.”
At the end of public comment, Argue said that when she was elected last year, she heard from other board members and the public that they wanted more transparency.
“This board, in particular, wanted to have a fresh look at finances, where our money was going, and making sure that things were being done properly,” she said. “When I was nominated as treasurer, I was honored… I think the best way to learn about the district is through its money. These are your dollars, so I have taken that responsibility very seriously, so I don’t just sign checks. When I come in to sign checks, there’s usually a very large pile, and it usually takes me a couple of hours to go through it. If I have questions, I ask staff for that information.”
Argue said that to initiate change, a new set of eyes is needed in order to look at things differently. “I have caught things that should never have gotten to the check-signing situation,” she said.
Hager said she appreciates everything that Argue does for the district.
“There is no way that Jennifer Hager can do what Betty Argue is doing with that park,” she said. “I appreciate your work on that.”
However, Bair said that he has heard that difficulties have arisen because of how Argue has dealt with park issues. “There are problems with the way you do it,” he said.
Bair said he told people complaining about issues with Argue that he could not interfere and that they had to go through human relations. “I’m just not going to get involved with the day-to-day operations of the district,” he said, adding that he thought the reason people were coming to him was that the manager has not been doing his job. “He should have said, ‘Look, go to HR. Take care of it that way,’” Bair said. “That wasn’t being done.”
Supervisor Gary Dunkley, who had made the motion to remove Argue, said that ITID had paid an $800 phone bill to Argue that he thought should not have been paid and was not revealed to the board.
“I stand behind my vote,” he said. “Ms. Argue does not deserve to be the treasurer.”
Argue said that when she made a trip to Canada, she did not have the ability to change her phone plan because it was not in her name. She had asked staff to correct it, which had not been done due to confusion with the district’s phone provider.
“I did not try to hide anything,” she said. “There is nothing to hide. If I was trying to hide anything, it was to protect staff who messed up in the process. As a board member, I don’t bring staff issues and air it here at the board. It’s not necessary. It was not my mistake.”
Dunkley said he does not use his ITID phone to make personal phone calls.
Supervisor Carol Jacobs said she thought legal staff had failed to explain the rules of non-interference with staff to Argue when she became a supervisor.
“In Betty’s defense, there was no finance director… so her phone bill, because there was an international exchange, this shouldn’t have gone this far, but it has because we’ve been minus staff,” Jacobs said.
Hager said she could not believe board members wanted to remove Argue over a phone bill.
“I really think you guys are digging for a reason,” she said. “I cannot devote a fraction of the time that Betty is putting into this place, and I knew that she would do it, and that’s why she got my vote. She gets a little bit on my nerves, though, sometimes, and so does everyone else, because it gets heated, and I am very non-confrontational… The reasons that you guys do not want her to be treasurer don’t seem warranted.”
Hager reminded her colleagues that the non-interference policy applies to all supervisors.
“The policy applies to all of us, 100 percent of the time, not when we want it to,” she said. “He who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.”
Viator said that the original intent of bringing back up Argue’s removal was that the board had not provided for public input.
“This perception has now been cured,” she said. “We have now been able to allow public comment and input.”
Viator said the next course of action would be for one of the board members to make a motion to reconsider the issue.
Hager asked for a motion to reconsider, but none was offered by any of the three supervisors who had approved the motion.