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Mills residents raise concerns over proposed ordinance

An ordinance that would allow the mayor to fire department heads immediately after beginning their term was again the topic of much discussion at Tuesday's Mills City Council meeting.

Mills City Hall (Gregory Hirst)

MILLS, Wyo. — An ordinance that would allow the mayor to fire department heads immediately after beginning their term, among other changes, was again the topic of much discussion at Tuesday’s Mills City Council meeting.

Under the city’s current bylaws, a mayor must wait until they’ve been in office for at least 13 months before they’re able to terminate the employment of a department head. However, the proposed ordinance — which went through its second of three readings at the meeting — does more than expand mayoral powers. The ordinance would also provide additional rights to all employees, allowing them to challenge a firing if they feel it was unjust.

The second reading narrowly passed by a vote of 3–2, with councilmembers Brad Neumiller and Tim Southerland dissenting.

Some members of the public raised concerns relating to the proposed ordinance, and in particular the section that deals with mayoral powers.

“My particular question is, Why are you in such a hurry to change this?” Mills resident Kendra Chorniak asked. “Why in the first quarter do you want to get this ordinance changed? Why not wait to see how they’re doing, and do you know who you’d replace them with?”

Mayor Leah Juarez responded that she’s happy with the job the current department heads are doing, but wants to free her hands if a situation should arise.

“Let’s say we found out one of our department heads was stealing from the city. I wouldn’t be able to fire them if that happened right now,” she said.

Mills resident Scott Clamp raised the concern that the new ordinance could cost the city money. He referenced a time the city let a department head go and replaced them with two people, each individually making a higher salary than the former employee. He added, though, that he likes the portion of the ordinance that gives all employees an avenue to challenge terminations.

“It’s good to give the little guy a fair shake,” he said.

Juarez said her desire to pass the ordinance is to free herself and all future mayors to begin taking action as soon as elected. She also said there has been fearmongering in the community about the proposed ordinance.

“[The current ordinance] was effectively barring me from doing my job to the full capacity as I was elected to do,” she said.

The ordinance will undergo one more reading before it officially takes effect.