Dalton Gardens leaves window open after nominating clerk
Jason Wood (left) gives an impassioned speech about civility Monday night at the Dalton Gardens council meeting. Calls for resignations abounded as the city is faced with what many describe as a self-inflicted workforce shortage. (CRAIG NORTHRUP/Press)
Dalton Gardens residents listen solemnly as their fellow citizens testify in front of the City Council Monday night. Nearly 300 arrived in person — with another 100-or-so attending via Zoom, according to Mayor Dan Edwards — after a series of internal battles among the City Council went public in the Coeur d'Alene Press Friday morning. (CRAIG NORTHRUP/Press)
From left, City Council members Carrie Chase, Aaron O'Brien, Mayor Dan Edwards, Robert Wuest and Ray Craft listened as hundreds of citizens came forward, asking for resignations. While none resigned, Councilman Aaron O'Brien admitted Monday night that he had given the matter serious consideration amid council dysfunction that has led to workforce shortages and acrimony. (CRAIG NORTHRUP/Press)
Staff Writer | May 25, 2021 1:08 AM
The Dalton Gardens City Council carved a path to remain open amid a workforce shortage that threatens a Thursday shutdown.
The City Council, in a 2 - 1 decision, voted to approve the nomination of deputy clerk Teresa Janzen to the position of clerk. The decision means, should Janzen accept the position, City Hall could theoretically remain open.
Nearly 300 Dalton Gardens residents showed up to City Hall Monday night to speak up about the dysfunction affecting their town, all while the threat of a de facto municipal shutdown loomed. With City Hall’s capacity capped at 100, the garage across from the administrative building became an overflow area, where 189 watched with intention as council debated ordinarily pedestrian items like the city’s facility reservation policy and adoption of a disaster mitigation plan.
But each agenda item took on additional gravity behind the backdrop of a workforce shortage that has threatened the town’s ability to conduct its basic business. Several employees have either retired or tendered their resignations since February. In an interview with The Press on Friday, Mayor Dan Edwards said the lack of competitive pay and an acrimonious relationship between employees and members of the Dalton Gardens council have spurred the resignations, leading to a precarious situation this Thursday morning, when no employees might be available to reliably maintain the day-to-day operations of City Hall.
On Monday night, a rainstorm that would have ordinarily sent citizens home didn’t deter the nearly 300 from showing up, either to watch live in City Hall, listen through a speaker system in the garage or to make their voices heard through public comments.
Another 100 or so attended virtually via Zoom from their homes. Many called for three of the city’s four council members — Carrie Chase, Robert Wuest and Ray Craft — to resign.
“You were elected to the council to work with the best interests of the citizens of Dalton Gardens,” said resident Chante Brown. “Since that time, you’ve exhibited nothing but complete incompetence, arrogance, corruption and bad faith.”
While many in attendance echoed calls for the resignations of Chase, Wuest and Craft, others came to the defense of the embattled council members, criticizing Edwards for disparaging the City Council. Randy Gregerson recalled a conversation he had with a candidate for the city clerk position, where the candidate backed up that complaint.
“‘During [the] interview with Dan, he mentioned numerous times how three of the four City Council members were awful to work with and anti-government,” Gregerson said. “… [The candidate] thought, ‘How awful to have such a horrible representation of the council.’”
The mayor and council were not the only targets of the public’s ire. Some residents also criticized the Coeur d’Alene Press for what they called biased and unfair coverage of the council’s dysfunction.
“The article in The Press was a shameful, unfactual attack on the City Council based solely on comments of the mayor,” said Dalton Gardens resident Karen Kimball. “Surrounding cities and The Press are wanting to interfere with Dalton [Gardens’] council agenda.”
Others narrowed their criticisms even further.
“It’s very shameful for The Press to write a one-sided article, especially without getting the other side,” said Dalton Gardens resident Lila Tatum. “Having said that, The Press reporter stated the council had not gotten back to him for comment. So that means the reporter decided to write a one-sided article that’s not true? If he’s here tonight, I ask: How does that make you feel? You’ve done nothing but stir up issues you know nothing about. Don’t use the word reporter after your name, please, and certainly not investigative.”
Citing illness, Craft left mid-meeting. Craft, Chase and Wuest had offered varying levels of resistance to the appointment in the past, but after the council went into executive session, they emerged with Wuest joining council member Aaron O’Brien in approving Janzen’s appointment. With Craft unavailable to vote, Chase was the lone holdout.
“I think you do a great job as deputy clerk, Teresa,” Chase said during the meeting. “However, I do believe due diligence has not been done to replace a clerk/treasurer for Dalton Gardens. I have to go with my gut …”
Neither the mayor nor any council member resigned Monday night, but the situation is not over. The nomination of Janzen doesn’t ensure the city averted the shutdown. Janzen has not yet accepted the position. Her last day is Wednesday. If she chooses not to accept the job, the city is in the same predicament.