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Mills City Council votes to expand mayor’s powers, employees’ rights

Mills City Hall (Gregory Hirst)

MILLS, Wyo. — The Mills City Council voted 3–2 on Tuesday to expand the mayor’s powers, allowing the mayor to fire department heads immediately after beginning their term. Previously, the mayor was unable to do so for the first 13 months of their term.

“It was effectively barring me from doing my job to the full capacity as I was elected to do,” Juarez previously told Oil City News.

The vote did not come without some skepticism from the public, however. Mills resident Abriel VanValkenburg asked why the mayor wanted to pass the ordinance if she did not intend to immediately fire a department head.

“I just don’t see what the rush is,” VanValkenburg said.

Juarez responded that she understood where VanValkenburg was coming from, but assured her that her aim was only to allow the mayor to do their job if the need arises. She also said that without the ordinance, it would require a unanimous council vote to fire a department head.

“There might be something you think is a terminal offense, but if just one councilperson says, ‘You know, I don’t think it’s bad enough,’ then we’re stuck with that person,” Juarez said.

VanValkenburg also asked if it was a conflict of interest for Juarez to vote on an ordinance directly pertaining to her mayoral powers, but City Attorney Pat Holscher said it wasn’t.

“Under Wyoming’s law, direct personal interest in the outcome of a vote is not usually regarded as a direct political outcome,” Holscher said. “If you voted on whether a business could come in and you owned the business, you can’t do that.”

The ordinance does more than just expand the mayoral powers; it also grants all employees the right to challenge firings they believe to be unjust.

“That would be a contested case hearing under the Administrative Procedure Act,” Holscher said. “The process would vary depending on who had been involved in the termination, but if the council had not been involved in the termination then they could sit as the deliberative body.”