The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Coin flip decides board service debate


April 21, 2018

CLOVIS - The Clovis city commission, at a gridlock over which District 3 member would give up their slot on the Railroad Committee, went with the most trusted of executive decision makers.

Helen Casaus called heads. She kept her seat, and Fidel Madrid stepped down in favor of Sandra Taylor-Sawyer.

Heads was the coin flipped by City Manager Justin Howalt, and settled was one of the larger debates about what commission members serve on what lower boards and committees.

The city has, until further notice, 32 lower boards with at least one city representative serving in some capacity - member, chair or ex-officio (non-voting). It's until further notice because Howalt, on request from commissioners, looked into removing bodies considered unnecessary.

With no objection from commissioners, Howalt suggested eliminating the quality of life task force, voter ID task force and the employee compensation review board. Those bodies took on tasks that are either completed or can be handled by other avenues.

Howalt suggested that his membership on the economic incentive board change from voting member to ex-officio because he may have to enforce a commission decision he's on the record as disagreeing with. Commissioner Taylor-Sawyer said the EIB doesn't include any city commissioners, and previous commissions wanted the city manager to have a vote on that board.

The railroad board, which is a committee overseen by the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce, had four commissioners serving. The problem, Taylor-Sawyer said, was that two were District 3 commissioners and none were District 2 commissioners.

District 3's commissioners, Casaus and Madrid, agreed Taylor-Sawyer was right but couldn't agree on who should give up the spot. Both felt comfortable with Howalt tossing the coin, and Taylor-Sawyer was appointed to take over Madrid's position.

Taylor-Sawyer noted that in the commission's April 5 meeting, new District 4 Commissioner Rube Render agreed to take over all of predecessor Tom Martin's positions, and took a spot on the Civil Aviation Board from fellow District 4 Commissioner Chris Bryant. Taylor-Sawyer said the aviation board only has one commissioner position, and she didn't want to create the impression one district should keep a particular board. Render offered the aviation board spot for anybody else who wanted it, and had no volunteers.

Near the end of the discussion, Render said in cases where four commissioners served on an advisory board, it can give citizens the impression that lower board decisions are de facto city commission decisions. Other members noted commissioners frequently cast opposing votes in those meetings, with Taylor-Sawyer noting some commissioners who voted for the backyard chickens measure at the animal control task force voted against it at the commission level.

In other business at Thursday night's meeting:

• Raymond Mondragon was selected by commissioners to serve on the Water Policy Advisory Board.

Mondragon took a 4-3 vote over Jack Muse, who had held an at-large Clovis resident position and was running again. In his application letter, Muse, who had a prior commitment, said he tirelessly worked against deals behind closed doors where there were clear conflicts of interest.

There were only six commissioner votes because Mayor Pro Tem Juan Garza was absent and Madrid abstained due to a working relationship with Mondragon at Eastern Plains Council of Governments. Madrid, Ladona Clayton and Casaus voted for Mondragon. Render, Taylor-Sawyer and Gary Elliott voted for Muse. Lansford cast the tiebreaking vote for Mondragon.

Following the vote, Clayton voiced exception to Muse's letter.

"When Mr. Muse came to us with concerns, we took those concerns seriously," Clayton said. "We looked into several of the concerns, and they were unfounded. Every step of the way, we have done things above board."

• The commission voted 6-1 on a request for information for the groundwater banking and playa restoration portion of the city's master water assurance plan.

The plan includes a principle to only work with people who are willing sellers of their water rights for that purpose. "A lot of that," Lansford said, "is going to boil down to appraisals and state and federal valuations."

Render cast the lone dissenting vote. During discussion, he said the matter was best left in private hands, "plus the fact I have sat through these meetings for 16 years and heard, 'This is only up for introduction.' Every time I heard that, it always put the train on the tracks."

• Parks and Recreation Director Mark Dayhoff said commitments were high for the April 28 city-wide trash pickup.

"We should have a lot of teams," Dayhoff said. "With all of this wind, we should also have plenty of trash to pick up."

Assistant City Manager Claire Burroughes noted the landfill will waive dumping fees noon April 27 to noon April 30 in conjunction with the cleanup effort.

• The next meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. May 3 at the North Annex of the Clovis-Carver Public Library.


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