The Haines Borough Assembly approved an 18-month contract extension and 2 percent pay raise for borough manager Mark Earnest following an evaluation last week.

“I’m very appreciative of the opportunity to continue serving the community and the borough, and I look forward to pushing the projects that we’ve got moving in the next year and a half,” Earnest said.

Earnest, who has been borough manager since January 2010, will be paid $108,120 annually. He said his contract will run through July 15, 2013.

“There’s an advantage to getting it on that schedule,” Earnest said. “Otherwise, the new manager would be coming in just as the budget process is starting.”

Earnest last year informed the assembly he planned to leave his position within two years, to further the education of his elementary-age son, Matthew, who was tackling calculus, earth science and physics classes.

Assemblyman Steve Vick said the 18-month extension “wasn’t a huge issue,” and said Earnest is “still on a contract where if, for any reason, he was unhappy or we were unhappy, the contract could be terminated.”

“We have time to plan for a transition, and we can certainly use the resources we have and all the information that Mark has to make our transition as smooth as any possible transition can be,” Vick said.

The assembly also directed Earnest to work toward several goals, including to hire an assistant by April 10; improve on taking direction from the assembly as a whole; present clear, brief and concise reports; nurture and rebuild his relationship with the media; coordinate with the Mayor for media comments and create a media release policy; and have a transition plan to the assembly by July 24.

Smith chided for meeting behavior

Mayor Stephanie Scott said she “telephonically gaveled” Norm Smith of the Haines Borough Assembly last week because “his behavior and tone were inappropriate for an assembly meeting, and I wanted an apology.”

Smith called into the meeting from Mexico and said he informed Scott he would be disconnected every 15 minutes. Scott said those technical issues were “irrelevant” in her decision to unplug Smith more than two hours into the meeting.

When the assembly took up the topic of global positioning system data for helicopter skiing, Smith referred to Scott Sundberg and Nick Trimble of Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures and said the company has “continued to violate every freakin’ thing that we have offered.” Smith also said Sundberg was “out of freakin’ line” for threatening to sue the borough if GPS data were released.

Mayor Scott told Smith, “I think we have to be careful about casting aspersions here.” She then disconnected him from the meeting after he interrupted comments by borough manager Mark Earnest on another agenda item, and borough clerk Julie Cozzi said Smith “is now absent.”

“I am uncomfortable with the idea of unplugging an assembly member from the meeting,” said assemblyman Steve Vick. “At the very least, we should be able to explain to him that he is being disruptive and give him the opportunity to correct the behavior. He may be talking to someone in the street and doesn’t know that he is being overheard by the assembly.”

Scott said she was sympathetic to Vick’s “lack of comfort,” but Smith’s behavior “far exceeded my comfort level about an hour ago.” Scott said she would “abide by the wishes of the assembly,” and member Joanne Waterman suggested recessing to contact Smith.

Scott reconnected Smith after he apologized in a private phone conversation.

“I’m concerned about any assembly member who is not behaving with decorum that would be expected of an assembly member,” she said in an interview. “Later on, I did say to the assembly that I never wanted to hear the word ‘freakin’ because I know what that stands for, and it’s totally unacceptable.”

Scott said when borough officials use personal attacks, “one is at the risk of discrediting oneself, but, more dangerously, discrediting the assembly.”

“I do not want the assembly to be discredited by ‘Wild West’ types of discussion and decorum,” she said.

Smith in an e-mail last week wrote he did not know the Mayor purposefully cut him off from the meeting. He noted the technical glitches were “extremely frustrating.” He sent a letter of apology that appears in Letters to the Editor in this issue of the Chilkat Valley News.

Assembly OKs new website funds

The assembly has authorized up to $19,300 for Oregon-based aHa! Consulting’s website redesign and development services.

The borough received 10 proposals for work on the site at The assembly last week approved the resolution to award the contract in a 5-1 vote, with member Norm Smith opposed. Smith said putting more money into the site “is not a real positive thing to do in a negative budget situation.”

“We would have better money spent to give everybody a check for $10,” Smith said. “I do not see the need to spend $19,000 to reinvent the wheel we already have.”

There was no further discussion before the vote that gave the contract to aHa! Consulting.

The project description asked for “a fast to download, flexible and informative website that is easy to maintain.”

Mayor keeps task of setting agenda

The Haines Borough Assembly last week decided to stick with the status quo when setting procedures for preparing meeting agendas.

Agendas will continue to be crafted by Mayor Stephanie Scott and borough clerk Julie Cozzi.

One failed amendment stated the “agenda for each meeting shall be prepared by the manager and the clerk, after consultation with the mayor.” Member Debra Schnabel said she opposed that wording, because she wanted “clarity in who is ultimately responsible” for the agenda.

Cozzi said Mayor Scott made the request “that it shouldn’t be the mayor’s agenda” following the October election.

Member Joanne Waterman moved to keep the existing code language that “the Mayor, with assistance from the clerk, shall arrange a list of such matters according to the order of business,” and the motion passed unanimously.

“This really, in my mind, is not a power struggle,” Waterman said. “It’s not who’s in control of the agenda or anything like that, it’s about teamwork, and I think what is happening right now is we’re going through a change of personnel and everybody’s getting used to each other.”