By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Havre City Council member Emily Mayer Lossing has been removed from the council's Labor Negotiations Committee at the request of fellow council member and committee chair Terry Schend.
Schend asked Havre Mayor Bob Rice to remove Mayer Lossing from the committee at a City Council meeting last Monday, saying he doesn't think Mayer Lossing understands the budget process or labor negotiations.
Rice, who appoints members to the council's committees, complied.
"As per the request of Labor and Negotiations Committee Chairperson Terry Schend, you are no longer assigned to the Labor and Negotiations Committee," Rice said in a letter dated Tuesday to Mayer Lossing.
Mayer attributed the decision to politics and defended her knowledge of the budgeting process.
"For me to be singled out in such a manner, anyone with an ounce of common sense knows this is political," she said. "They must view me as an incredible threat to do this."
Schend cited comments Mayer Lossing made to the Havre Daily News on Sept. 14 about why she voted against the city budget and the mill levy. The $12.1 million budget includes a 9 percent tax hike. It contains no money for raises for city employees.
Mayer Lossing, who cast the lone "no" vote, said the property tax increase would have a measurable impact on the working poor and fixed-income people in her ward.
"I represent people on fixed incomes that can't afford another increase in taxes," she said on Sept. 14. "They'll be paying for medical insurance for city workers that they can't even afford for themselves and their families."
Schend, a first-term council member and the council's only Republican, said Mayer Lossing's statements were irresponsible and unfair.
"To say that she's the only one with fixed-income and working poor in her district is not a very enlightened statement," Schend said today. "As council people, we all have a responsibility to make sure people aren't overtaxed. But she voted no on the budget without asking any questions" about why the budget required a property tax increase.
"I felt it was in the best interest of the city and the committee to remove her," he added. "I don't think she has a comprehension of the budget process."
Mayer Lossing, a Democrat who is in her third four-year term on the council, said she was somewhat surprised by Schend's request to have her removed from the four-person committee, but that the final decision by the Republican mayor was expected.
"Mr. Schend and Mr. Rice do share a very close friendship, so this didn't surprise me," she said Friday. "This type of political activity didn't come as a complete shock, but I was disappointed that Mr. Schend didn't talk to me before he proposed my removal from the committee."
Mayer Lossing said Schend's comments that she doesn't understand the city's budget process are unfounded.
"I served for three years on the Finance Committee; I know the budgeting process," she said.
Mayer Lossing works for Hill County in the personnel office and as manager of the county's H. Earl Clack Museum, which she says has given her valuable experience in both the county budget and working with grants.
"I have a lot of experience with budgets. You don't have to own a business to understand the budgeting process," she said.
Schend said he was concerned that the city's employees - who are in the midst of contract negotiations with the Labor Negotiations Committee - would be reluctant to work with his committee after Mayer Lossing's comments, especially her statements concerning the city's health insurance coverage.
"I think they'd be less willing to work with us," he said. "All negotiations were going smoothly prior to Emily's statements and I want that to continue."
He noted at last Monday's council meeting that all Hill County employees, including Mayer Lossing, received a 2.3 percent raise in wages this year and that the county also pays 100 percent of insurance premiums for its employees.
"Our city workers are being asked to look at another year without a wage increase, and for her, a county employee who received a wage increase this year and 100 percent medical coverage, to turn around and tell a city employee that they don't deserve a wage increase isn't fair," Schend said.
Mayer Lossing said it was inappropriate for Schend to bring up her medical coverage and salary.
"I have no control over my wages or the insurance issue," she added. "I feel like it would be appropriate if I paid something for my insurance, and I've raised the issue with (Hill County Commissioner) Kathy Bessette, but it's totally out of my control."
Mayer Lossing said her comments were not meant to be viewed as anti-city worker.
"I'm very supportive of our city workers," she said. "However, there are times when you have to make a decision that you support, and you might tick some people off. But I must follow what the people who have voted for me for three terms want me to do."
If Mayer Lossing disagrees with the decision to remove her from the committee, Rice's letter states that she has seven working days to submit a written statement listing reasons why her committee assignment should continue.
Rice said if Mayer Lossing doesn't respond to his letter, her committee position will be terminated.
"If she doesn't respond, it's a moot point," he said Friday.