Havre Daily News
Some Havre City Council members have once again questioned the payment of city bills associated with a December retirement party for two longtime employees.
During a meeting Monday night, City Council members Pam Hillery and Allen “Woody” Woodwick asked why taxpayers should pay a $153 bill the city incurred to advertise the retirement party for former deputy public works director Gary Schaub and former wastewater treatment plant superintendent Kristi Kline. The ad was in the Havre Daily News.
After a council member used parliamentary procedure to halt the discussion, all eight council members voted to pay the bill.
Public works director Dave Peterson defended his purchase of the ad, and several City Council members backed him up, saying the council should not micromanage city departments.
In a City Council Finance Committee meeting earlier in the day, City Council president Rick Pierson, who chairs the committee, said he had received calls from Hillery and Woodwick, asking the committee to consider withholding payment of the $153 bill. The committee voted 3-0 to pay it. During the council meeting, Woodwick said he didn't believe it was the taxpayers' responsibility to advertise the party.
Hillery said she didn't recall such treatment for Dave Wilson, the longtime director of parks and recreation, who retired at the end of 2004.
It was the second time council members questioned a bill associated with the retirement of Schaub and Kline. Two $200 gift certificates, also purchased by Peterson, were held back at the City Council's first meeting of the year so the council could discuss them. The certificates were eventually paid for by the Hill County Republican Party, along with City Council members Terry Schend, Bob Kaftan, Pierson and several citizens.
In the committee meeting and before the full council, Peterson said he thinks the purchase is justified, and asked that City Council members come to him when they have a question about a purchase he approved.
“I felt it was a justified cost for two people who have worked (a combined) 55 years and saved the city thousands and thousands of dollars,” Peterson said. “It was my decision. For those two people to leave the city was very difficult.”
Peterson said the ad was intended to inform the community of Schaub's and Kline's retirement party so people could attend to say thanks.
He said any comparison of their treatment with Wilson's was apples to oranges, because Wilson was the head of another department, and not an employee in his.
Havre Mayor Bob Rice said Wilson did not want to have a party when he retired.
Pierson and city clerk Lowell Swenson said they could remember at least two instances in which the city had purchased ads for retiring employees.
Hillery said she voiced her opinion over concerns of fairness, adding that she didn't consider the issue a partisan one.
The discussion may have gone on longer, but City Council member Gerry Veis called for the question, which ends any discussion, according to parliamentary procedure. After the meeting, Veis said the City Council had belabored the point enough.