Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Mayor blasts assembly, calls hire a 'set-up'

 


Haines Mayor Jan Hill lambasted the borough assembly Tuesday evening, accusing members of violating borough charter and saying the hiring of Debra Schnabel as borough manager was a “set-up.”

“I agree with those community members who have stated that this assembly violated our charter which clearly states that the manager shall be hired based solely on professional qualifications,” Hill read from a letter during her mayor’s report. “This clearly did not happen. I also agree with former assembly member Mike Case who stated that this hire was a set-up from the start.”

The controversial hire of Schnabel roiled the community last month. Many borough administrative staff members, who supported interim manager Brad Ryan, criticized the assembly for holding staff meetings but not listening to their input.

Other community members also spoke during public meetings against the hire, saying Ryan was the more qualified candidate.

Hill said the past few months have been controversial and that she’s remained quiet, but now felt the need to speak. She said the assembly isn’t representing the entire community. She said she was “disappointed” that “pressure was applied to work on a draft contract for the new manager” while she was out of town on a family medical emergency.

“When I reviewed it, it clearly appeared to me that negotiations had already started in my absence,” Hill said. “I clearly understand my job and responsibilities as Mayor, so I will sign the contract that the assembly approves.”

She also said she was disappointed in the assembly’s choice to appoint Stephanie Scott, and not “new blood” to the vacant assembly seat left by Mike Case, who resigned last month.

In separate interviews with the CVN, assembly members Heather Lende, Tom Morphet and Margaret Friedenauer expressed frustration with Hill’s comments.

Morphet especially objected to Hill’s comments that the assembly’s hiring of Schnabel was a “set up from the start.”

“That’s unfounded,” Morphet said.“It’s defamatory. It’s irresponsible. Once you begin impugning the motives and spinning conspiracy theories, you’re done as the Mayor. That crosses a line.”

Morphet said he supported hiring Dave Palmer as the interim borough manager after the assembly fired Bill Seward in December.

Assembly member Heather Lende echoed the sentiment. She said she believed at the time Palmer could train Ryan and that he would eventually be hired.

“To say from the beginning we were trying to get Debra in there is completely false and it’s unsettling that the Mayor would perpetuate that,” Lende said.

Assembly member Margaret Friedenauer, who resigned from the assembly Wednesday afternoon, said she disagrees with Hill regarding her criticism of the hiring process and the contractual negotiations. Friedenauer supported Ryan for the manager hire.

“We did nothing wrong,” Friedenauer said. “We followed our own process. That process had integrity. I stand up for that process. Frankly I’m really sick of people saying that there was anything wrong with the process. There is nothing wrong with the way Debra was hired. I don’t agree with (her hire) but I wholeheartedly support her.”

 
 

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