Since the demise of Mammoth’s former town manager and numerous closed sessions on property negotiations that were never discussed publicly, Mammoth Lakes’ citizens have continued to grumble about what they call a lack of transparency in their local government. Long time resident, Sandy Hogan, stood up during public comment at Wednesday night’s Council meeting and articulated for the Council why they have critics.
She said many have heard complaints from the public about the lack of transparency and excessive numbers of closed sessions. She said, “The public feels left out of the decision making process.” Angry phone calls, letters to the editor and emails would agree.
Hogan picked an example of one issue that she said should be much more public before addressing it in closed sessions – the potential purchase by the Town of Sam’s Wood Site for events. Hogan said up front that she supports that idea, but she said there has been no formal public discussion other than random individual comments. Hogan said, “My support and Councilman Michael Raimondo’s does not constitute a public process that should lead to a Council decision that would then start purchase negotiations.”
In fact, the Council has included such negotiations, pre-public discussion, in more than one closed session. Hogan brought up the obvious – that the Council plans to use revenue from Measures R and U since these are virtually the only monies the Town has. Said Hogan, “The appearance is that the Town Council is ignoring the processes in place.”
Hogan suggested that the Council wait for a final events site feasibility study that is in the works, agendize the issue, engage the Measures R and U committees, and then deliberate and take public comment. Then, she said, comes the time to negotiate a purchase. Hogan called the Wood Site idea a “long-term investment of limited tax dollars” that needs public discussion.
She told the Council that “A full and open process is often messy and long, but we’ve been missing this. That’s why the Town Council is getting criticism. By jumping to closed session discussions, the Council skipped many important steps,” she said.
Councilman John Eastman tried to rationalize that the Council never intended to make a decision in closed session. Hogan did not let him off the hook. She said the purchase of the Wood Site was on a closed session agenda before the idea ever went public.