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Council rejects process for better communication
May 01, 2014 Jerry Purvis   

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An earlier request by Gering City Council member Jill McFarland to develop a process to ensure better communication among administrators, staff and council members led to some barbed words from fellow council member Don Christensen.

“I cannot come up with any reason why we should have a process as spoken by council member McFarland,” he said. “We have one of the best methods I know of for communicating with the public. It’s the media. We don’t need a process to override that.”

McFarland’s request came from recent developments with the potential meatpacking plant as some council members and many in the public were in the dark about the project.

“I’m going to make a motion that we do not put this thing on the table of any other committee and vote yes or no whether we want a process and we end this thing now,” Christensen said. “I don’t want the process period in the personnel committee or any other committee and just maintain the status quo.”

But McFarland asked why discussion on how to improve communication was a bad thing.

“What do we lose if we try to do this?” she asked.

Gering resident Robin Kinney spoke during discussion on Christensen’s motion.

“My issue continues to be what I can do if I have a question about something that’s going on in my community,” she said. “I should be able to approach any of my council members and get some sort of information. The fact we didn’t have that with the packing plant project is kind of concerning. I should be able to get an answer, not a blank stare.”

Kinney added that most of the recent rumor and innuendo could have been avoided by clear communication and the public expected more openness and dialog from city officials.
“Some council members were able to provide information they had,” Gering Mayor Ed Mayo said. “But a lot of people in the community didn’t want to hear that answer.”

Gering resident Jean Bauer also spoke, saying he was dismayed with what she has witnessed over the last couple of months.

“As the mayor, Mr. Mayo, it’s your job to get the council members with the same vision toward Gering,” she said. “We may not agree with how to get there, but we need to get the people on the same page. That requires you to be a leader instead of being divisive.”

Bauer also disagreed with Christensen’s assessment that everything is okay with what the council is doing.

“I don’t understand why at least we can’t try for better community,” Bauer said. “I’m really disappointed with what I’ve witnessed.”

Council member Dan Smith said part of the problem is with the Administrative Committee, which produces no minutes of its meetings. He said he tried to get minutes from the city administrator’s performance review, but none were kept.

McFarland disagreed with Smith when he claimed there was no transparency in the Admin Committee. But Mayor Mayo said he’s yet to see minutes from that committee, which is chaired by McFarland.

Some discussion over Roberts’ Rules of Order followed over how to handle Christensen’s motion. After it was re-read by the city clerk, council approved his motion to keep the status quo regarding communication. The lone no vote was cast by McFarland.
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