In a close, four to three, vote Tina Kelley was re-elected as Morgan County council chair. The discussion to select a new chair opened with Member Ned Mecham nominating Don Mathews for the position. Member Kilmer seconded it. Member Nelson raised concerns about Member Mathews travel schedule. Mathews has attended meetings by phone several times over the past year as his work has required travel. Member Mathews indicated that his schedule is changing and he would be present at all but one meeting in the next year. Nelson also expressed concern about whether Mathews had time to serve the hours necessary to fulfill the duties of council chair. Member Nelson nominated Council Chair Tina Kelley for a second term. The council then voted and Kelley was re-elected to serve a second term by the narrow margin. Member Mathews was voted in as Vice Chair of the Council unanimously.
This will be Kelley’s second term as chair of the council. She has been less controversial in this year than her predecessor, Sid Creager, but has presided over a council who often has had a strained working relationship with one another. This council meeting provided a good example of the strained relationship as council chair Kelley and Member Robert Kilmer sparred over the hiring of a replacement for Grant Crowell who recently left county employment as planning and zoning director.
Member Kilmer said, “That leads me to an issue, chair. Multiple times I have brought things to this council and basically been accused of blind-siding. I have been accused of planning and plotting. It’s my belief that a lot of this stuff is supposed to be aired in an open public forum and that’s what we are here to do. So when I bring stuff to the council to discuss in an open public forum I’m not here to offend and accuse, I want to discuss in an open public forum. So to say that I could have just brought my concerns to you personally I want to know how everybody else felt about it…It bothers me that each time I do that I am offending somebody. If we can’t take it why are we in this job…We are here to discuss things. Let’s discuss in an open honest adult manner rather than make accusations about the different council members.” Council Chair Kelley responded, “So you can express yourself and I can express myself and that’s what we have done. So we have done that. We have communicated. I just feel like I should be able to express my feelings to.” Member Kilmer countered, “So your expression to me is that this is an affront on you that I am attacking you because I asked to discuss this in an open form.” Council Chair Kelley further added, “No, I felt like we had discussed it before and there was an implication that it hadn’t been discussed. I wanted to clear that up.”
These types of exchanges have not been unusual. Members Kippen and Kilmer have also regularly taken offense at comments by one another. As the year has progressed this strain has appeared to be increasing rather than decreasing.
The discussion that culminated in this exchange generated only slight changes to the job description for the planning director, but generated significant heat in council member relationships.