Questions Raised By Pay Probe Of Sv

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The chaotic and improvised process that awarded the Star Valley town manager with a roughly 37-percent pay boost in 20 months raises some troubling questions about that town’s management.

Someone sent to the Gila County Attorney’s Office a list of decisions and contract revisions that boosted Town Manager Vito Tedeschi’s total compensation from roughly $97,000 to somewhere between $133,000 and $165,000.

The county attorney’s investigation will now focus on whether the town council complied with the state’s invaluable open meeting law in considering and approving the many changes in Tedeschi’s contract.

The chronology poses something of a head scratcher. Clearly, the town council several times in properly advertised public meetings did approve major changes in the town manager’s contract.

However, the still incomplete available record suggests the town council also delegated too much unsupervised authority to then-mayor Chuck Heron to make significant changes in Tedeschi’s contract. That includes decisions to make him a private contractor, then turn him back into an employee without a public council vote.

We welcome the county attorney’s investigation, although we suspect any open meeting law violations will prove unintentional.

We also hope the investigation serves as a wake-up call for the town council, which usually zips through decisions with minimal discussion and quick, unanimous votes. We have often wondered how the council can make so many vital decisions with so little public discussion if the council members are being scrupulous about the law that forbids cobbling together a consensus through informal conversations. The council must adhere to the law to make sure that they perform public business in public view.

The known chronology shows key changes made on the fly without much study, including adding a bonus for handling traffic tickets, shifting to private contractor status and things like giving Tedeschi a $13,000 pay boost one month, then including him in an additional staffwide cost of living increase the next month. As a result, Tedeschi ended up making a lot more money than the managers of many much larger towns.

Heron has already acknowledged the town still hasn’t implemented many of the checks and balances other towns perhaps take for granted.

So while we don’t question the good intentions and hard work of either Tedeschi or the town council, we do hope the investigation will shake things up at town hall.

Payson plan too vague

Quick: What’s the difference between a man who can’t read and one who doesn’t read?

Too hard? All right: What’s the difference between a dictatorship and a democracy in which citizens don’t show up?

All right — maybe that’s a stretch. Still, we hope the question provokes you into showing up at a public hearing on Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the Payson Town Hall to weigh in on the town’s priorities for the next few years.

The council has already held two study sessions on the overhaul of the two previous overall strategic plans.

Not a single citizen showed, near as we could tell.

The council hopes to merge the existing plans and set forth big-picture priorities — but pluck out a lot of the laundry list of unwieldy details. The council wants to leave the details to the town staff to sort out in a business plan we haven’t yet seen.

That sounds reasonable in theory — but worries us in practice. Granted, a mind-numbing amount of quickly outdated details can easily overwhelm citizens. However, we’re afraid the council might be overcorrecting with pages of vague good intentions.

The council flinched from the vital question of growth management, originally imposed to keep the town from outstripping its water supply. Several council members observed that not only has the accumulation of unused permits made the restrictions moot — but the guarantee of Blue Ridge water eliminates the original argument in favor of growth restrictions. Instead of tackling that core issue, the council opted for a vague reference to revisiting growth limits “as necessary.”

Of course, it’s hard to judge the new approach without seeing the proposed new business plan.

But it’s not at all hard to conclude that the plan tackles so many vital issues that the council chambers ought to fill up on Tuesday — providing we’ve still got enough interested citizens who kind of like living in an actual democracy.

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