Realtor concerned about council’s tax committee appointments

Could the Susanville City Council be creating a new good old boy network? That’s a concern raised by local realtor Jim McCarthy at the Susanville City Council’s Wednesday, Nov. 2 meeting.

McCarthy said at its Oct. 19 meeting, the council decided to appoint members to the sales tax advisory board rather than seek and then review applications from interested members of the public to serve.

“I understand this is your choice, and I’m not casting any aspersions on any committee members, nor do I seek an appointment,” McCarthy said. “But I now see some folks being appointed to multiple different boards. We’re picking from a small group of people. This to me smacks of cronyism, and perhaps an effort to build a new good old boy network of dependable votes. At this local level of government, there is no excuse for creating voting blocks. Everyone should try to remain persuadable. This observation may irritate you, but hopefully it does cause you to look at this issue a little closer. Accountability in government starts with public confidence in the process.”

At the Oct. 19 meeting, Councilmember Mendy Schuster nominated Tom Downing, Councilmember Thomas Herrerra nominated Curtis Bortle, Councilmember Russ Brown nominated Tony Ardito and Mayor Quincy McCourt nominated James Merchant. Councilmember Kevin Stafford said his planned nominee may have a conflict of interest, and he plans to nominate someone at the council’s next meeting. All four nominees were approved individually, with Schuster casting a lone no vote on Bortle’s appointment.

Following the nominations and approvals, City Administrator Dan Newton said he would seek an opinion from City Attorney Margaret Long regarding the appointments since two of the appointees already serve on the Susanville Planning Commission (Merchant and Ardito) and a third serves as an alternate (Bortle).

At the Nov. 4 meeting, City Administrator Dan Newton brought the matter of tax advisory board appointments back to the council. He said the council may appoint the members to the board as needed, and if a councilmember wanted to remove a member, the council could do that.

McCourt said he wanted to “change my thought process” on his nomination, and he wanted to change his nominee to Jan Newbold. He said he said he had discussed the matter with Merchant who agreed with McCourt’s change of thought, and because Merchant had not yet formally accepted the position, he did not have to be removed.

While he said he believes Merchant would have done a great job on the board, McCourt said, “One of the reasons, you know, basically, contributing and breaking down the good old boy system, and we don’t want to replace it with a new good old boy system.”

McCourt also said he liked McCarthy’s idea of accepting applications, but since the board was nearly complete, the current process should continue. McCourt also said the board should be diverse.

Newton then advised the council it would need a motion, a second and a vote, and McCourt then nominated Candy Bolton. Bolton’s nomination passed by a 4-0 vote (Councilmember Thomas Herrera was absent).

The council never offered a motion, a second or a vote to appoint Jan Newbold.

Lassen News sought clarification from city staff regarding the appointment, but they did not respond to our request by deadline.

Councilmember Kevin Stafford said the person he planned to nominate had backed out. He said he would continue to seek a nominee.