Dave Waggoner plans to quit job under protest and become Laurel’s next mayor

Nelson voted in as mayoral candidate
By: 
KATHLEEN GILLULY
Outlook managing editor

 

With a week to spare before the new city council and mayor must be sworn in, Laurel councilors held a special meeting and elected Tom Nelson to serve as mayor should the mayor-elect Dave Waggoner decline the position. The council heard from the four candidates who submitted letters of interest and resumes—Kenneth Gomer, Terry Fink, Kevin Witherspoon and Nelson—during the special meeting before the regular workshop meeting. The mayor then accepted nominations and the council voted between Witherspoon and Nelson. Scot Stokes voted for Witherspoon and the remaining council members voted for Nelson. Bill Mountsier and Bruce McGee were absent. After the vote, the council unanimously passed Resolution No. R17-74: “A resolution of the City Council appointing a Mayor to serve until the City’s next General Election to be effective only if the Mayor-elect fails to resign his current City employment rendering him unable to serve as the City’s elected Mayor while remaining a City Employee.”

Although mayor-elect Waggoner had not yet indicated what his decision would be as of the Tuesday evening meeting, he spoke to the Outlook Wednesday morning and said he was going to quit his job and become mayor.

“I didn’t want it to come down to this,” he said. “If they had talked to me and then held a fair selection for a new mayor, I wouldn’t fight it.” 

Waggoner said he will be filing a union grievance against the city for unfair termination.

“I read nothing in the city charter that says they can do what they’re doing,” he said. “They only have the authority to fill a vacancy this way. And I met all the charter qualifications for mayor.”

The mayor-elect also questioned whether Councilman Nelson taking part in the vote constituted a conflict of interest.

Since the election, Nov. 7, the city council, mayor and city attorney have said that because Waggoner is an operator at the city’s water treatment plant, he has an inherent conflict of interest and is unable to serve as mayor. Originally, Painter said the city could go to District Court and get a preemptive ruling, although that action wasn’t pursued.

 

Final workshop of 2017

Immediately after the special meeting, Mayor Mark Mace called the regular city council workshop to order. Chief Rick Musson spoke on behalf of two police reservists candidates who will be voted on next week. He said he knows the council understands the police department has done a thorough job of vetting the officers. Chief Musson also told the outgoing mayor and councilors he appreciated their service.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with a mayor and council who work in the best interests of the city,” he said.

During the executive review, City Attorney Sam Painter explained how the service contract the city has with former Chief Administrative Officer Heidi Jensen works. He said the contract limits her pay to $5,000, although it can be renegotiated every three months and said she would only be called in if her expertise is needed. She would be paid in quarter-hour increments at $200 an hour.

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