It's a dirty -- but not well kept secret- that Mayor Ken Murphy wants to get rid of Payson's police and fire chiefs and Councilman Henley wants to get rid of the airport director. To facilitate this, they and their cohorts want to turn the town's personnel procedures for firing top officers upside down -- going from council action by the current 6 to 1 "super majority" to delegating that power to town manager, with appeal to the council requiring only a 4-to-3 majority to confirm a dismissal.
This is vendetta politics at its worst and will be a tragic development for this town, if it is rammed through by a coalition of people with personal grudges.
The mayor, of course, has publicly denied any ulterior motives, but privately he has expressed to me and others a lot of animosity toward police and fire personnel -- feeling that he and the watering holes he frequents have been unfairly targeted for excessive surveillance and enforcement.
Delegating firing authority to our new town manager, Fred Carpenter, is perhaps the worst idea of all for several reasons: 1) It makes the town manager the unaccountable henchman and hit-man for personal agendas of these council members, with only after-the-fact review by the council itself; 2) Carpenter himself is operating under a five-year contract and is the least accountable of anyone in the Payson government hierarchy; and 3) he reportedly has been told who voted for and against his selection as town manager last year and may be prone to side with his backers.
What is the proper course?
First, the council needs to retain authority for hiring and firing top town officers. They should never have granted Carpenter a five-year contract; Payson residents and elected officials need more accountability than that. But that is now water under the bridge.
Second, a bare majority to fire key town officers will foster too much instability and political machinations. The council should declare that proposal dead on arrival. A legitimate case can be made for a compromise at 5-out-of-7, rather than the current 6 to 1 super-majority -- but no less.
If, however, a majority of the council opts for the mayor's proposal, our residents should, at the very least, carefully take note of who is helping launch Payson into vendetta politics and keep that in mind at the next election.
Don Crowley, Co-chairman, Citizens for Better Payson Government