The Oakdale City Council came to a stalemate during a recent special meeting for the appointment to fill the position left vacant by Jason Howard, who resigned in April. Without a selection by mid-June the matter goes to the voters in a special election in November.
Only three individuals applied for the seat. Retired Oakdale Police Lieutenant Vern Gladney, city volunteer (and mother of Jason Howard) Ramona Howard, and local business owner Scott Jaspar were separately interviewed by the council in the three-hour session. Revelations of past arrests for Jaspar prompted him to withdraw from consideration late last week. (See related story.)
“One of the things that shocked me was the apathy (for the position),” said Councilman Tom Dunlop regarding the choices. “In the past the chambers would have been filled with six to eight people interested.”
After the interviews the council could not come to a decision.
Councilwoman Katherine Morgan supported appointing Gladney but did not receive any backing from those on the dais.
Councilman Mike Brennan motioned to appoint Howard but during discussion there was no mention of any furtherance of interest.
“This was not the right decision at all,” said Morgan the day after the meeting. “We desperately need to fill the seat. I don’t think it’s wise to operate with a four-person council.”
Morgan said she was impressed with Gladney’s proven leadership and knowledge of the city.
Dunlop expressed an opposite view in selecting Gladney, stating that because of Gladney’s past as Oakdale Police Association president and upcoming labor negotiations he had concerns with Gladney being objective.
“We need to look at a whole bunch of people and who wants to participate,” Dunlop said. “I did not see strong leadership show up.”
Morgan said she was surprised that Dunlop had “shifted” in getting an appointment done.
“Tom wasn’t going to vote for anyone,” Morgan said. “It went a whole different direction than I thought. We made a decision to appoint at the (previous) council meeting and didn’t follow through.”
The council members expressed concern about operating with only four persons and the possibility of split votes on decisive issues.
“This is a huge impact with only four of us for the next six months at a crucial time,” said Morgan. “I fear we will come to an impasse with split votes more than once.”
Morgan said the existing council would see some challenges especially when it came to appointing a new city manager if a possible candidate is selected before November.
Mayor Pat Paul agreed, stating that a new city manager may very well be chosen after the November election.
“It will be very decisive,” said Paul. “I assure you, however, we all agree on the budget needs of the city.”
Dunlop said it was not only the pending city manager appointment that concerned him, but labor negotiations and the upcoming budget.
“This council was not productive way before we went to four,” said Dunlop. “We’ve got good people in Oakdale counting on us. We need to get past this … and move on.”