Sometimes, it’s best to get your toe wet before jumping in the water.
There’s a lot to be said for historical perspective and learning the lay of the land.
Such could be said for Gardner’s two novice councilmen; who in their zeal and enthusiastic support of Gardner seem intent on diving into the deep end of the lake before learning to swim and with no consideration of the wake they leave behind.
The content of a press release written by staff regarding the council’s recent decision to remove a “no gun” sign at city hall was of concern to council member Rich Melton, who indicated the press release, as issued, missed the most exciting points and further threatened, “If this is the best we can do with a PIO on staff we could have anyone write the play by play.”
There are several problems with Melton’s request that staff write a more detailed press release:
• City rules prohibit council from directing city staff
• Melton is pictured removing the sign two days before the change in resolution went into effect
• In the photo Melton is wearing a shirt that advertises his business
• The photo that went viral is posted on the councilman’s business page
• His follow up email could be interpreted as a vague threat to the public information officer’s job.
Melton indicated at the meeting that he takes responsibility in directing city staff to write a press release, claiming he was unaware of city rules. However, he doesn’t think he did anything wrong wanting a more detailed press release as it could promote Gardner in a good light. That is true; however, a council member directing staff to write a release that directly or indirectly promotes his business can be construed as a possible conflict of interest and the appearance of using public office for personal gain.
Melton wasn’t the only novice council member to stick a foot in his mouth at the Nov. 2 meeting.
Also at Monday’s city council meeting, former Mayor Dave Drovetta read the following email he said was received by his wife, Margaret Drovetta, from council member Lee Moore:
“Ma’am, You are either not being truthful or you are ignorant, but probably a little of both. At no time did I ever say anything to disparage “old people.” Not one single word that I said had anything at all to do with anyone’s age. I was very clearly advocating giving new, as in inexperienced at public service, people a chance to volunteer for committee positions in lieu of former politicians. Be that as it may, it seems you have already passed your judgment on me. Have a nice life. Please do not contact me again. I have wasted enough time on this to no avail. Thanks, Lee.”
Apparently the email exchange referenced the Oct. 21 council meeting; Moore had advocated that newly formed advisory committees would be best served with fresh, new faces and appeared to discourage the appointment of those residents who have served and led Gardner in the past.
To her credit, in the final email of the exchange, Margaret apologized for the tone of her emails saying she understands how difficult it is to serve on the council or be related to a council member. The former Mayor offered some well timed advice to council members suggesting they need to remember that they represent all of Gardner, not only those with whom they agree.
In his social media page, Moore writes this synopsis of the Drovetta council exchange: “Last, but not least, the ex-Mayor read aloud an email exchange, allegedly initiated by his wife (I remain skeptical), between his wife and me. In this email exchange, originally received by Rich Melton and myself to our public email accounts (which are public record, by the way), the initiator told us in ALL CAPS that we (not our ideas, our opinions, or our behavior, but we two people) are “an embarrassment.” “
We believe Moore and Melton are sincere and enthusiastic in their quest to serve Gardner residents. Council members invest a lot of time and energy for little pay. What’s important is not individual egos, or personality disputes, but serving the public. This requires experience, accepting responsibility and good communication skills.
Holding public office is much different than conducting court on a social media page.