Council wants commissioner booted

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2003

The city of Kenai's efforts to contract out the management of the Kenai Recreation Center has been a contentious process that has generated strong feelings on both sides of the issue and now may lead to the dismissal of a city commissioner.

Kenai Mayor John Williams attended a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting Thursday and asked for the resignation of commission member Dick Hultberg.

Williams said he was attending the meeting at the request of the city council and was asking for Hultberg's resignation because after the council voted to approve awarding a rec center management contract to the Boys and Girls Club of the Kenai Peninsula in May, Hultberg continued to be divisive over the issue.

"He chose not to comply with the request of the council," Williams said. "He chose to fan the flames of rhetoric and chose not to serve the will of the very council which appointed him. ... He chose to press upon the community his opinion."

Prior to the council's vote in May, the Parks and Recreation Commission reviewed the proposed contract and voted against approving it. The commission serves in an advisory capacity to the council and commission members are appointed by the council.

The council voted 5-2 to approve the partnership with the club. According to Williams, the affirmative vote should have put an end to the dissension both among the council members and commission members who voted against the measure.

"You have to have a team effort to run an organization like this," Williams said. "When a member of an appointed commission that serves at the will of the council is diametrically opposed to the philosophy presented by the council, it's probably time they should consider other endeavors."

Hultberg did not give his resignation or many comments in his defense.

"I didn't realize that the business of dissension was so against anything else," Hultberg said. "... I do not apologize for what I did. I had strong feelings about it and I still do, but what's done is done."

Williams responded that the council was prepared to seek his dismissal. He made reference to three sections of the city's charter that he said gave the council the power to do so. The sections he referred to regard the council's power to "appoint or elect ... advisory officers and authorities," (Section 2-4, Council Powers) and "to lay off, suspend, demote and remove" which "accompanies the power to appoint or elect," (Section 4-6, Removal, etc. of Officers and Employees). The other section, 4-8, says appointed officers should continue to serve unless their services are terminated by resignation, removal, disqualification or other means.

Other commissioners were given an opportunity to comment on the issue in the meeting, but declined doing so.

"This is never something I expected to see come under the guise of a parks and rec meeting," said vice chair Dale Sandahl, who chaired the meeting in commissioner Jack Castimore's absence.

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