SYRACUSE — Mayor Jamie Nagle says she is tired of pretending an ongoing discussion about the duties and responsibilities of city officials is anything but an attack on her.
During a recent council work session to talk about council policies and procedures, Nagle found herself on the defensive again as discussion turned to whether the mayor has the right to expel potentially unruly people from public meetings.
Later, in the general session, several residents questioned whether changes made last year to the city code give the mayor greater powers and put the city in danger of being sued.
Nagle said that is simply not the case.
Pressed last year to get the procedures for public access in writing, council members have spent months debating the fine points of those rules and policies, with more discussion likely to come.
The ongoing discussion has put new Councilwoman Karianne Lisonbee at odds with Nagle on a number of points.
Lisonbee said the issue is not personal but that she believes the review is necessary to bring city policies in line with state statutes and to remove ambiguity.
Nagle believes some of the review has set the city back instead of moving it ahead. She is particularly upset that the latest batch of rewrites seem to relax city standards on conflicts of interest.
“Yes, I do believe it is personal. When a certain member of the council has been asked to follow the rules in place, rather than follow the rules, there is now an item forced on the agenda to change the rules,” Nagle said.
The mayor, in conjunction with city staff, usually sets the agenda for the council, but the vote of two council members can force items onto the agenda.
The mayor said the latest work session shows an effort to back off ethics standards.
“I think it’s problematic,” Nagle said. “We moved to stricter accountability. Now we’re moving against that.”
“We are committed to upholding the law, including the Utah ethics law, and want to have that reflected in our rules,” she said.
“However, we want to be cautious with language that could be seen as vague or could be used in an arbitrary or capricious manner against members of the public, staff or the governing body.”
Several residents used the open comment portion of the council meeting to ask for clarification on the power of the mayor to dismiss department heads. They claim the changes in the code put the city at risk of being sued.
Again, the case is being overstated, Nagle said.
“Our attorney and city recorder have researched the claim that the mayor’s duties were expanded, which is simply not the case,” she said.
“In fact, I did my best to solidify that we are in fact a six-member council who hires a city manager who runs the day-to-day workings of the city. This is consistent to the referendum that the citizens voted on — choosing a six-member-council form of government.”
Nagle looks at the political makeup of the council and doesn’t see much change in the works.
“Let’s not pretend it’s anything but what it is. You have four votes,” Nagle said of the council’s ability to string the discussion out even more.
“I am tired of the bull crap. If I see it, I’ll call it out.”