Fairhope Mayor Karin Wilson has yet again created conflict within her city’s leadership. In late April, she sent an email to Fairhope’s Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) chairman Chuck Zunk saying the city budget was ultimately her responsibility, and that she would let the committee know if she needed there input.
Now, the FAC is at a standstill, waiting for Wilson to “need” them.
“As far as I can tell, the mayor has changed her position on the budget preparation, and my impression of the contents of her email is that she wants us to butt out and not be involved at all,” Zunk told the Courier. “When they finish it, she’ll distribute it to us and with six days of review, she expects us to be able to discuss it at the July meeting.”
Zunk and other committee members felt the mayor was attempting to not have the FAC be involved in the process at all, and that the reasons she gave for not including them were “trivial” and “foolish.”
During the May 15 city council meeting, Zunk was given an opportunity to voice his concerns.
“Our interpretation of the email was that: No. 1 – it changed the relationship between the committee and city staff from collaborative and cooperative, which it had been up until that point, to adversarial; and No. 2 – it restricted our access to acquiring facts from city staff, so much as to be essentially cut off,” Zunk said. “Under those circumstances, we are unable to function as you had requested and so we suspended consideration of all of our active projects, pending discussion with city council.”
“She made a comment to me … that now that she’s been through the preparation of two budgets, she’s an expert, that she doesn’t need anybody’s opinion,” Zunk told the Courier. “Well, I guess the 120-some years of experience that the four of us have doesn’t mean jack to the two years of experience that she has. That’s her attitude. It seems to me that if that’s her attitude, we’re kind of swimming upstream.”
And his assumptions might be correct.
During a phone conversation with Courier reporter, Cliff McCollum; wilson said she thought the council was confusing their role in the administration. “I don’t need advice there,” Wilson told him. “What I need is help communicating with the council. I’ve always made myself available and want to find ways to make this a better process.”
This is not the first time Wilson has been under fire from city leadership. In March, Wilson received an email from Fairhope Police Chief Joseph Petties, after a controversial hiring decision she made in February.
Wilson announced the hiring of Tony Goubil, the city’s new police sergeant and public safety director, at a council meeting on February 26, without informing the council or Petties, both of whom were shocked to receive the news, especially since, according to The Courier, the Alabama Ethics Commission sent Goubil to investigate a complaint filed against Wilson.
Although the complaint was dismissed, “those who filed the claims questioned how Goubil’s investigations into those claims could be trusted in the light of his hiring by Wilson.”
Wilson later retracted the hire at the March 20 City Council meeting, saying that although she believed the city did need a public safety director, and Goubil was a great choice for the position, that she understood other people wanted input in the decision.