News

Haugen unassigned to committees

Deciding subcommittee assignments for Auburn City Council members is usually a routine, end-of-the-year matter.

The three-member Council Committee on Committees makes the preliminary choices, and the full Council later adopts, changes or rejects its recommendations. The subcommittee also determines meeting times and places.

But this go-around the subcommittee left one name unassigned to any of the seven committees for 2010, and its omission struck sparks at Monday's council meeting — the name of Councilwoman Virginia Haugen.

"I'm disappointed," Haugen, a recent candidate for Auburn mayor, said later.

Haugen, a member of the Municipal Services Committee, said she believed that she had been recommended for another term on that committee. She claimed she was notified Nov. 9 that she would be assigned to that committee.

But Councilmembers Rich Wagner, chair of the Committee on Committees and vice chair Sue Singer decided Nov. 7 that Councilman Bill Peloza would chair the Municipal Services Committee because of his length of service on it. Singer will be vice chair and freshman council member John Partridge will be a member. Singer said no decisions were made before that time.

Haugen said she was surprised to be left out.

She said she asked Singer for documentation explaining the reasons for leaving her out, and as of Monday afternoon had not received a reply.

Wagner reminded Haugen that she had attended the Nov. committee meeting when members discussed their reasons for putting committees together in the way they did.

“It is really to accomplish committee work and not to punish anyone or leave anyone out,” Wagner said. “It is to include people who are best able to do the work, and that discussion took place in committee.”

Haugen recalled how Singer had said at that most recent Committee of Committees meeting that she, Haugen, was unable to follow the rules in the Council rule book.

“I certainly have tried to follow the rules,” Haugen said. “I have been very confused at different times because I’ve been told in e-mails that I am committing illegal acts, and I have never been informed as to what those illegal acts are … If I committed illegal acts, I think I would have been arrested.”

Singer reminded Haugen that she had received letters during the last year asking her to follow the rules and to make specific changes in her behavior, and she failed to do so.

“If you would like copies, I will send them to you again,” Singer said.

As deputy mayor, Singer helps with new council member training and “supports cooperative and interactive relationships among Council members.” She also helps to maintain a positive relationship between council members and the mayor and acts as a conduit between the mayor and Council on issues or concerns relating to their duties.

Break the rules, Singer said, and there, must be consequences.

Singer said while she agrees with Wagner, she comes at the issue from a different angle. She noted that the Committee on Committees completes evaluations based on past performance, including preparedness for meetings and whether the individual has gone to required training.

“There are two things we can do: a public letter of censure read at a Council meeting, which is more public; and the other is that you can get fewer committee assignments,” Singer said. “It’s also based on whether or not a person is prepared, understands the materials and is constructive in the work being done on the committees. Somebody has to be willing to have you on a committee, and the only person willing to have Virginia on a committee was Bill Peloza.”

Singer said the she was unwilling to assign Haugen to Municipal Services in part because of her treatment of City staff, including police, that the committee oversees.

“She has interfered in the past with police work. She’ll see a policeman on the side of the road stopping somebody, or at an accident or arresting somebody, even one time at a shooting and step in,” Singer said. “You can’t get in the middle of that stuff and get in their way and then be on the committee that oversees them. You can’t do that kind of thing without any consequences at all. Speaking for myself personally, I could not in good conscience put somebody who does that sort of thing on that committee,” Singer said.

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Committee assignments

• Planning and Community Development: Lynn Norman, chair, Nancy Backus, vice chair, Rich Wagner, member

• Municipal Services: Bill Peloza, chair, Sue Singer, vice chair, John Partridge, member

• Public works: Rich Wagner, chair, Sue Singer, vice chair, Bill Peloza, member

• Finance: Nancy Backus, chair, Lynn Norman, vice chair, John Partridge, member

• Community Center: Rich Wagner, chair, Lynn Norman, vice chair, Bill Peloza, member

• Downtown redevelopment: Lynn Norman, chair, Sue Singer, vice chair and Bill Peloza, member.

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