Syracuse councilman: Debate over board appointment an ‘attack on me’

Apr 1 2012 - 7:24am

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Doug Peterson
Doug Peterson

SYRACUSE -- Councilman Doug Peterson says an ongoing debate about the legality of his appointment to the North Davis Sewer District Board has gotten personal.

"This is an attack on me. If you don't want me there, tell me why you want me off there," Peterson said at the end of a work session Tuesday, when the appointment was discussed.

The controversy has been ongoing since January and remains unresolved.

Peterson is still a member of the board, even though several city officials concede the process of his appointment last year didn't follow the letter of the law.

Peterson was appointed to the post last summer after an ethical question forced Matthew Kimmel to be removed from the group.

Mid-term appointments have noticing requirements that the city apparently did not meet, Councilwoman Karianne Lisonbee contends.

A new council voted in January to appoint Councilman Larry Shingleton to represent the city on the board, but questions came up on procedural issues related to the appointment.

Shingleton has never served in the post, so the appointment issue has remained in limbo while Peterson continues to serve.

City Attorney Will Carlson said the council has three options in addressing the issue if Peterson does not voluntarily resign the post, which he has shown no inclination to do.

Carlson said those options include: voting to remove Peterson from the NDSD, thus potentially opening the door for Shingleton or another council member to be named to the post; provide two weeks' notice of the council's intention to appoint Peterson to the NDSD; or take no further action on Peterson's appointment to the NDSD until the end of his term.

Carlson recommended either of the latter two options.

The city attorney also conceded that the city's last three appointments to the NDSD have not been properly noticed, but suggested it doesn't translate to Peterson's appointment being illegal.

"What is clear is, when things are done outside of order, it's just not automatically void," Carlson said of the action.

The city attorney said one of the problems with potentially appointing Shingleton to the board is that Peterson was never removed from the board. He said the council would need cause to remove him.

Lisonbee took the improper action another way.

"My concern is, because Peterson was appointed by resolution that Kimmel was removed, and at that point, there was no noticing. I don't think Doug Peterson is a duly appointed member of the sewer board," she said.

Newly appointed Councilman Brian Duncan, an attorney, suggests the best thing to do is clear the deck of the appointments, notice them and start again.

"We apparently have done it wrong for a long time," he said of the process.

He suggested both Peterson and Shingleton should resign from their post, then city officials could notice the vacancy and the council could formally fill the vacancy.

Mayor Jamie Nagle suggested too much time has been wasted this year on the matter and the bigger picture is that the city has a duly appointed person on the district board.

"Was it done clean? Absolutely not. In the end, was anyone harmed? I really think we need to start moving forward."

Duncan is insistent on doing something. "I'm saying I want to go back and fix the mistake."

Peterson thinks that is the wrong approach. "If you want that attitude, then there are a thousand things to go back and fix. This is an attack on me," he said.

After the meeting, Lisonbee said she doesn't know what is next with the appointment issue, but added she would like to see it resolved by following the law.

"Because the NDSD is a taxing entity, I believe it is important that the citizens have a representative who is there legally, who is fully vested and appointed under the governing statutes," she said.

Former Councilman Lurlen Knight, who served on the NDSD, used the citizens comment portion of a council meeting to urge city officials to resolve the issue.

He said participation on the board requires more of a commitment than simply attending the meeting.

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