Outgoing Councilman Skip Harvey says the Town Council is doing Mammoth’s citizens wrong by insisting on closed meetings that deal with the impending settlement of the $42 million MLLA judgment.
“The people of this town have a right to know what’s going on,” Harvey said in an incendiary statement from the dais Wednesday evening.
“I think it’s time that we get this issue out to the public.” Turning toward the audience and the television camera, Harvey said, “It’s time that we ask for your help. You can’t help us if you don’t know what is going on. So I think it’s time for this to come out.”
What triggered Harvey’s ire was a closed-session meeting a week ago. Before that meeting, a reporter from The Sheet challenged the council’s decision to keep its closed-door policy.
Harvey implied he was all for opening up the meetings, even though the rest of the council and town attorney Andrew Ross said matters of litigation are allowed for discussion in closed session.
But after more than a year of closed meetings, Harvey said he’s had enough.
“Our town attorney explained that it’s an active legal action and that strategies and tactics should remain confidential. And so we kind of sort of went with that “But you can question that. You can question whether there are any strategies or tactics.
“Our citizens need to know what bankruptcy means. What’s it mean to our town to be bankrupt? What does it mean to our town to settle, to have some kind of settlement? These are the things you need to know.
“This lawsuit is going to affect everybody—every single person in town, young or old, for a very long time. There’s a very good chance of that.
“You have a right to know, and I think you have a right to hear from this council, the five people who are sitting up here on this bench, to tell you what this means, not to hear some high-priced attorney. The high-priced attorney might know the law, but I’m not so sure that they always know what is best for our town.
“The citizens of the town need to hear it from us, from the five people who sit up here, as to what all this means and what the different outcomes could mean for this town as we move forward.”
Whatever happens, a settlement, a bankruptcy or whatever else, Harvey won’t be on the dais to deal with it.
Last month, Harvey, who is battling throat cancer, pulled his nomination papers for re-election, then gave them back, dropping out of the June 5 municipal election.
“I haven’t said a whole lot about why I decided not to run for re-election so I just wanted to mention very quickly because a lot of people ask,” Harvey said. “It has nothing to do with my health. My health is actually quite good. It’s improving every day and that’s all I can ask for.
“Really, I wanted to take a break. I want to see how this town wants to do business, because I’m not really sure.
“Are we the kind of town who wants to play hardball, no matter what, regardless? Or are we the kind of town that takes responsibilities for our actions?
“I’m not really sure about that, so I’m taking a little break to find out how this town really wants to do business.”
Harvey said he knows the road ahead is paved with trouble.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “It’s a mess that we’ve gotten ourselves into, and it’s going to take every single citizen in this town to get us out of it—everybody. It’s going to take the Mountain, it’s going to take the public employees, it’s going to take all of the citizens to help us get out of this.
“I just think that we need to get this thing out of closed session and out to the public, and the people need to know what’s going on with this lawsuit.
“It has gone on long enough in closed session. It needs to come out.”
The rest of the council members said nothing in response to Harvey’s outburst. His speech was not an agenda item and it came from out of the blue.
Meanwhile, the council wrote a Letter to the Editor in today’s edition, saying it was council’s intention to be more public.
“As a point of fact, since the start of the negotiations, the Town Council has been receiving many requests for information and desires to communicate important information to the community about the status of the negotiations and settlement,” the council said.
“Last fall, we formulated information in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document and were prepared to it send to the media. In respect for the confidentiality process, the FAQ was sent to MLLA. MLLA immediately demanded the Town not send it as proposed, claiming a breach in our agreement with them.
“In respect to the process, and MLLA’s specific request of the Town to not distribute the FAQ, we held back sending it.”
The town subsequently posted the FAQ on its website, where it remains.
The document also can be found on the Mammoth Times website at www.mammothtimes.com.