Star Valley councilors and commission members better be careful what they say and to whom.
On Tuesday, the council made it known they do not want just anyone meeting with outside groups to discuss town issues.
The council directed staff to draft a policy that requires any council or commission member to meet with Town Manager Tim Grier for authorization before any meeting with an agency.
Mayor Bill Rappaport alluded to someone meeting with an agency and entering into talks on part of the town without approval recently, but did not state the person’s name. Although everyone involved was well meaning, he said it led to confusion between the town and the organization.
Rappaport said the town does not want to trample on anyone’s First Amendment rights, but does want to make it clear that councilors and commission members cannot represent the town on official matters without approval.
This is “really about talking to an agency on part of the town,” Grier said.
The town has never had a guiding policy for this issue and to avoid any further conflicts, decided to put one in place, he added.
Councilor Vern Leis said it is a good idea to put a policy in place because some people may not realize that what they discuss can be legally binding. Having Grier present at meetings or getting his input ahead of time, prevents this.
Some councilors were leery of adopting anything that could be interpreted as a “gag order.”
Councilors Paty Henderson and George Binney said the town needs to air on the side of caution when it writes the language for the new policy.
Rappaport said the policy does not prevent anyone from speaking, but rather makes sure they are not saying anything that could damage the town.
Grier said it is great the town has passionate commission members and councilors who actively look for new information and want to meet with agencies, but without a guiding policy on how this is done, one councilor may meet with a group one week and then another councilor the next.
This is confusing for the agency and the town that may not know either meeting took place.
Star Valley resident Gary Rolf said he supported the idea, but the way the policy was written makes it seem like Grier has the ultimate say on everything, when in reality, he works for the council.
Rappaport said the council has adopted no policy and Grier will present a draft before one is.
With the town “entering a very critical phase” with Brooke Utilities for the purchase of the Payson Water Company in Star Valley, there is no room for misunderstandings, Rappaport said.
In other news, the council moved to put 15 mph speed limit signs on Valley Road.
Currently, the speed limit on the winding road is 25 mph.
Binney said this is too fast especially since the road boasts six 90-degree turns with four of those blind.
“It is just a matter of time before someone is hurt,” he said.
Even with a lower speed limit, people will still speed,” Leis said.
If they do and the sheriff’s office issues a ticket, it will be a higher fine at 15 mph, Binney said.
The council agreed to have 15 mph speed limit signs posted the entire length of Valley Road.