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Newton mayor, two council members sworn into office

January 10th, 2014 Posted in Opinion

By Tavin Stucki

NEWTON — Mayor Clair Christiansen was sworn into office Thursday at the Town Council meeting, declaring to uphold the constitutions of the United States of America and the state of Utah. Shortly after, newly elected council members Kathryn Rigby and Matt Hansen took identical oaths, as dictated by town recorder Karla Ferguson.

“We’re required to keep to the laws of this town, and if we don’t like them, then it’s our opportunity and our obligation to change them,” Christiansen said.

The mayor also assigned specific duties and responsibilities to council members. Though Christiansen said duties previously taken care of by returning council members, everything was fair game and on the table to be shifted among all council members.

Rigby was concerned about being assigned to manage business licenses because she herself has a business license, but Christiansen and Ferguson agreed that as long as the council was not discussing business with her company there would be no conflict of interest. If the council ever did, as is the case of Councilman Jed Woodward with the city water responsibilities, Rigby would have to sign a disclosure document.

Woodward was reassigned to oversee city streets and planning. Hansen was assigned responsibility for city buildings, the fire department and EMTs. Councilman Matt Phillips was reassigned the water and park responsibilities. Rigby was assigned the libraries, businesses and special events.

“It doesn’t mean it has to be that way for two years, but that’s a good place to start,” Christiansen said, mentioning the responsibilities could be changed if the need arose.

Though they did not make a final decision, the council discussed two possible applicants to be appointed the new city treasurer, Terry Stapely and Nicole Jenkins.

The council also reviewed administrative policies and procedures. Because the town is being audited, several new policies need to be implemented. “The requirement is to have policies and procedures in place — written policies and procedures. As per our audit now, we are required to have certain policies and procedures,” Ferguson said. “We followed it anyway, but it’s just having it written down.”

Ferguson said the only real change to the town’s policies and procedures was with GRAMA requests — requests anyone may make to obtain public documents from the town. It was proposed that it be town policy to respond to the GRAMA request within five days, as part of a state government mandate.

Policies regarding an opening ceremony at council meetings and nepotism were discussed. State nepotism policies may not apply since the town has a limited number of people who are not related to a large percentage of other town members.

After discussion, the council voted unanimously to adopt policies and procedures regarding the schedule of fees, nepotism, conflict of interest and how the town will respond to GRAMA requests as written in the proposal. The council also has the option to review and change the policies in the future with a simple vote.

The council will next meet at 7 p.m. next Thursday and will continue throughout on the first and third Thursday of every month.


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